Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Something I need to say

I started this as a poem on the 26th of October 2010, as a reflection of the emptiness and abandonment I felt in the wake of someone who used to be my closest friend who decided that she no longer saw my friendship as viable. The first draft was completed on the following day, 27th of October, and now I leave it for a week or so, letting the ideas solidify in my mind and giving my head some fresh perspective and insight before I do my first revision. For now, this is a collection of ideas and not even remotely close to a completed work, and I will be continuing to work on it for several more weeks, but the words need to be said, and since this is my only forum, read it and comment... It is mostly in the format of a letter to this person who left me.

I used to know the sound of your smile, the colour of your laughter and the texture of your closeness. I used to be able to tell you everything, without censor, without fear, without judgement, holding back nothing, hiding nothing, completely open and honest. I used to be able to be myself only when I was around you, and only when no-one else was close enough to see, hear or know, but you took that away from me when I needed it most, when my life came crumbling down, you ran away, taking with you the solace, comfort and love that I needed to see me through one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. When I needed diversion, something or someone to take my mind off the things that were happening in my life, or your optimistic happiness, your undeniable fearlessness, you decided that I was no longer worthy of your friendship. I needed your ears to scream in, your shoulder to cry on and your soothing words to still the anger, fear, insecurity I felt, to soothe my breaking heart.
I resolved to go it alone, to build a new life, and as I poured the foundations of this new life, I needed your opinions, your conviction and your faith. But since you weren't there, I had to find my own, and learn to trust in my own abilities and judgement, to struggle my way forward through the darkness until I had something to build on.
When I needed to erect the walls of this new life, to lay the bricks one atop the other, it was through my sweat, my toil, my arduous labor that I did it, not with the help of those who were my friends, because you took them with you. When I tried to fix things between us, you refused to hear my side of what happened and why, so I finally gave up, and in the process, I discovered what friendship means, and who really were my friends.
When I started to build the roof of my new life, and needed the comfort of your proximity to help keep up the trusses, your insight and your ever-present smile to be the nails that held the trusses together, I learnt that I could never rely on you again. And without you, found a way to keep things from falling apart.
Now that my life has been rebuilt, I have resolved to keep weeding the garden, ensuring that false friends with empty promises never again infect my life. But as a result of your betrayal, I can't grow new flowers, find new friends, because I cannot trust them. For years I had walked a fine line, trying not to fall to the disastrous depths of cynicism, but despite my attempts, it turns out all that was keeping me on the tightrope was you, and when you failed me, nothing held me back.
Because of you, I will probably never trust anyone again, and while I manage a good job of hiding it from most people, I know what damage has been done, and that I will never be the same again.
I do not hate you, I do not blame you. You acted out of self-interest, while you hid it behind "protecting your friends". Well, I am lucky that I no longer count me among their number. I have seen you for who you are, and now that I have, I have moved on. I managed to rebuild my life now, and while my little house might not be the building it once was, but it's my life, and I count myself lucky. There are people that I can rely on, and people that I need in my life. These people are the people who saw through all my bullshit, and knew the real me from the beginning, the people that I needed from the start. My experiences with you were an expensive lesson in life, but one that I am glad to now say that I have made my own.
For those who stuck around, and helped me find out who my true friends are, thank you. You are who I needed all along. And for those who think they know me, good luck, the bridge has been drawn and one of the things that I have learnt, thanks to you, is that second chances, don't exist.

Well, that's me, done venting for now, I really needed to get that out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gareth Cliff's Letter To Government

Dear Government
12th October, 2010
Dear Government

OK, I get it, the President isn't the only one in charge. The ANC believes in "collective responsibility" (So that nobody has to get blamed when things get screwed up), so I address this to everyone in government - the whole lot of you - good, bad and ugly (That's you, Blade).

We were all so pleased with your renewed promises to deliver services (we'll forgive the fact that in some places people are worse off than in 1994); to root out corruption (so far your record is worse than under Mbeki, Mandela or the Apartheid regime - what with family members becoming overnight millionaires); and build infrastructure (State tenders going disgustingly awry and pretty stadia standing empty notwithstanding) - and with the good job you did when FIFA were telling you what to do for a few months this year. Give yourselves half a pat on the back. Since President Sepp went off with his billions I'm afraid we have less to be proud of - Public Servants Strikes, more Presidential bastard children, increasing unemployment and a lack of leadership that allowed the Unions to make the elected government it's bitch. You should be more than a little worried - but you're not. Hence my letter. Here are some things that might have passed you by:

1. You have to stop corruption. Don't stop it because rich people moan about it and because it makes poor people feel that you are self-enriching parasites of state resources, but because it is a disease that will kill us all. It's simple - there is only so much money left to be plundered. When that money runs out, the plunderers will raise taxes, chase and drain all the remaining cash out of the country and be left with nothing but the rotting remains of what could have been the greatest success story of post-colonial Africa. It's called corruption because it decomposes the fabric of society. When someone is found guilty of corruption, don't go near them - it's catchy. Making yourself rich at the country's expense is what colonialists do.

2. Stop complaining about the media. You're only complaining about them because they show you up for how little you really do or care. If you were trying really hard, and you didn't drive the most expensive car in the land, or have a nephew who suddenly went from modesty to ostentatious opulence, we'd have only positive things to report. Think of Jay Naidoo, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Zwelinzima Vavi - they come under a lot of fire, but it's never embarrassing - always about their ideas, their positions, and is perfectly acceptable criticism for people in power to put up with. When the media go after Blade Nzimande, Siphiwe Nyanda and the President, they say we need a new piece of legislation to "make the media responsible". That's because they're being humiliated by the facts we uncover about them daily, not because there is an agenda in some newsroom. If there had been a free press during the reigns of Henry VIII, Idi Amin or Hitler, their regimes might just have been kept a little less destructive, and certainly would have been less brazen and unchecked.

3. Education is a disaster. We're the least literate and numerate country in Africa. Zimbabwe produces better school results and turns out smarter kids than we do. Our youth aren't usemployed, they're unemployable. Outcomes-based-education, Teachers' Unions and an attitude of mediocrity that discourages excellence have reduced us to a laughing stock. Our learners can't spell, read, add or subtract. What are all these people going to do? Become President? There's only one job like that. We need clever people, not average or stupid ones. the failure of the Education Department happened under your watch. Someone who writes Matric now hadn't even started school under the Apartheid regime, so you cannot blame anyone but yourselves for this colossal cock-up. Fix it before three-quarters of our matrics end up begging on Oxford Road. Reward schools and teachers who deliver great pass rates and clever students into the system. Fire the teachers who march and neglect their classrooms.

4. Give up on BEE. It isn't working. Free shares for new black partnerships in old white companies has made everyone poorer except for Tokyo Sexwale. Giving people control of existing business won't make more jobs either. In fact, big companies aren't growing, they're reducing staff and costs. The key is entrepreneurship. People with initiative, creative ideas and small companies must be given tax breaks and assistance. Young black professionals must be encouraged to start their own businesses rather than join a big corporation's board as their token black shareholder or director. Government must also stop thinking that state employment is a way to decrease unemployment - it isn't - it's a tax burden. India and China are churning out new, brilliant, qualified people at a rate that makes us look like losers. South Africa has a proud history of innovation, pioneering and genius. This is the only way we can advance our society and economy beyond merely coping.

5. Stop squabbling over power. Offices are not there for you to occupy (or be deployed to) and aggrandize yourself. Offices in government are there to provide a service. If you think outrageous salaries, big German cars, first-class travel and state housing are the reasons to aspire to leadership, you're in the wrong business - you should be working for a dysfunctional, tumbledown parastatal (or Glenn Agliotti). We don't care who the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces is if we don't have running water, electricity, schools and clean streets. You work for us. Do your job, don't imagine you ARE your job.

6. Stop renaming things. Build new things to name. If I live in a street down which the sewage runs, I don't care if it's called Hans Strijdom or Malibongwe. Calling it something nice and new won't make it smell nice and new. Re-branding is something Cell C do with Trevor Noah, not something you can whitewash your lack of delivery with.

7. Don't think you'll be in power forever. People aren't as stupid as you think we are. We know you sit around laughing about how much you get away with. We'll take you down, either at the polls - or if it comes down to the wire - by revolution (Yes, Julius, the real kind, not the one you imagine happened in 2008). Careless, wasteful and wanton government is a thing of the past. The days of thin propaganda and idealized struggle are over. The people put you in power - they will take you out of it. Africa is tired of tin-pot dictators, one-party states and banana republics. We know who we are now, we care about our future - and so should you.

Gareth Cliff

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hosting, Servers and life's other big Questions...

Wow, how much I have learnt in the last two weeks. Having successfully deployed my first live webserver last week, meant that before I could get even close to the result, I had to learn alot about how webservers work, how host headers work, what virtual directories are, and mostly, how DNS Zones work and propagate and what TTL means for live environments. This wasn't a quick thing either, it involved alot of google, alot of effort and most visibly, a heck of alot of swearing on my part.
Now, once I finally got the server to run it's various websites (and quite well at that), I got to a point where I needed a form of management software, and after doing some research, I got to two usable options, nl. PLESK and cPANEL. Both are quite good and provide the features that I need, but in my opinion, their pricing is way over what a SME can realistically afford, with the cheaper of the two, PLESK, coming in at R11,257.00 once off, without version updates. Now explaining to the boss that while it is alot of money to layout for software that won't directly influence the business, I can make that money back within a year, and after that, profit at least R12000.00 a year just by the savings to the company alone, ignoring the implementation of client hosting that can generate even more additional revenue.

Now that I have shared that little titbit of information relating to why my work has been keeping me busy, let us consider the actual reason for this post. Relationships, more specifically, love and happiness. Do they actually exist?

To answer that question, I will take a two tiered approach, covering both logical arguments and then summarize my personal view on the matter in closing.

1.) Love and Happiness, an intellectual argument:
I do not believe that love, or at least, the feeling of love, is a real stimulus, but rather the product of neurochemistry whereby a certain chemical stimulus (hormones) generate a counter response, ie. the release of brain chemicals (endorphins, etc.)which emulate a certain "emotional feeling", an abstract concept that we attach to these phenomena, but which in reality are nothing more than subtle chemical changes within our brains. Possibly, it could be argued that this is an evolved ability in order to force a level of attachment which would accommodate the mating practice in the human species, this however, still points towards the feeling of love to be a perception, and not a true feeling, it can thus be argued that the response should, logically, be ignored, and only acted upon should you be able to logically justify the course of action that has caused the changes in your brain.
Happiness on the other hand, is a far more complex topic to tackle. The feeling of happiness, also a simple neurochemical reaction, is, in fact, also an abstract concept, but finding "happiness" is much harder than finding "love" as "love" is by it's very definition hard to quantify and measure, so much so, that asking questions like why and how become moot. But with happiness, there comes the added compllication of it's being both quantifiable, and non-real. It is my firm belief that happiness is the result of lower IQ's or very little intellectual interest in the world at large. I qualify my argument in that of the various MENSA members who I am acquainted with none profess to be happy. Now I would specify that happiness as an overall feeling is what I am referring to and not specific happiness such as the emotional response to a victory at work etc. Whereas the people that I know to openly declare their happiness have, on average, an IQ in the high 90s to low 100s. Meaning, per se, that it is true that only a fool can be happy, this however, begs the question of why intellectuals are not happy, and the answer, is very simple. Intellectualism in it's nature calls for the questioning of everything, and once you understand something, finding happiness becomes impossible as the pure science behind the occurrence blocks any of the "magic" that it holds for the unintellectual, and therefor cannot cause the feeling of happiness that they experience.

2)An emotional response, flawed in it's very nature.
Now, while I list this answer to the original question as a "different side of the coin" alternative, it actually ties in perfectly and needs to be understood in order for the purely intellectual analysis to hold true.
In essence, our clinging to the belief in the existence of abstract concepts such as love and happiness is deeply rooted in our psyche, the need to belong, the need to find fulfillment and the need to believe in a better now than the current now (This has more to do with the abstract concept of linear time and would require a whole discussion at a later stage). Emotional responses are in and of themselves mere products of chemistry without rational thought, and should logically be discarded as ill suited, but in the nature of our being, our emotions form a substantial part of who we are, and the way in which we deal with them shapes the outcome of our decisions far more greatly than most people would consider. But for the purposes of this answer, our emotional belief in love and happiness is what provides our greatest drive in life, and as such, should be considered real only in that it mtoivates us to do the things that we need to do in order to survive in modern society, and for that reason alone, we should consider the existence of love and happiness as real phenomena and not logically reason them out of existence.

Now you should begin to see, assuming that I am in any remote way capable of verbalising my thoughts, that while both arguments seem mutually exclusive in their nature, they also compliment each other, and cannot be isolated.