Somehow, it feels fitting to sit on the stomp of a 500 year old cut down oak-tree, as i am writing this sad news. As Spock said in "The Final Frontier" : It is a reminder that all things end. And it is of endings that I wish to speak to you today. In the perpetual rush of everyday life, we sometimes forget just how fragile that life is. We mostly forget that .. all things end.
Yesterday evening, our beloved dog Neelix encountered the end of his mortal existence on earth, as he was killed by a passing van while running into the street. Death came swiftly and painlessly and he did not suffer, but his absence leaves a gaping hole in our everyday life. I shall spare you the details of how it happened, for those things have taken their course, and we can only live our lives in the one way street of linear time. Ever forward. In that split second of total horror, when you wish you had the cosmic powers to reverse time just a few minutes , it is there that we find how powerless we mortals are.
"Its only a dog".
Yes, perhaps. But most people who speak that line, as well-intended as it might be put, probably don"t have one. Neelix came into our live almost 2 years ago, ringing in a new chapter in our lives. Up until then, both Nyana and I had been as free as a bird. Our cat Maggie (bless him) is besides a giant snuggel-puss when we go to bed, also a very free-spirited feline that can fend for itself. The addition of a K-9 to our lives marked a new chapter. A chapter where we would soon learn what it was like to have a dog. It took some getting used to, taking Neelix along everywhere ( I remember being able to carry him in my laptop purse when he was a puppy ), we taught him how to walk on a leash, later how to stay by our side when we would go out walking. Because he was such a social and loving dog, who loved to be close to his owners .. Neelix very soon became an intricate part of our lives. Mockingly friends called him "our baby" , and in many ways he was. Perhaps a little spoiled, but always obidient and infinitely kind he would be the furry part of our day. From dusk until dawn, Neelix was there. Lounging in the bathroom as we got ready for work, Out on the porch, defending the garden from stray cats, playing with Kira and Maggie (our cats) and sticking up for them when the got into a cat-fight. He was there when we stepped out for the day. Driving along in the car, Loving the breeze when you would open up the window. He was there when you came home. Extatic to see you, happy to get lots of cuddles and lick to within an inch of your life. He was there when we watched tv, Getting comfortable on the back rest of the chair. He would be there when we went to bed.. Lying at our feet and ready to bark when a single strange sound would disturb him.
The hole this little brown friend leaves behind in our lives is large. The hardest part is deciding which is worse, the happy memories that taste bittersweet, or the hundreds of daily things we need to go through , knowing that "we used to do this with Neelix"… The beach, the forest, the fields we strolled through .. We now have to do so alone. The stick i’ll throw out there will never be fetched again. At dinner i’ll slide a piece of food under the table.. only there is nobody there to collect it. It will take a lot of getting used to.
People have a tendency to believe in faith only when it is convenient. In their daily lives they cry out their free will, but when face to face with death and the paralyzing sense of being utterly powerless, they are quick to call upon faith. I don’t believe in organized religion. Don"t believe in segregated heavens and hells, (dogs go left, humans go right, bad humans take the stairs down, bad dogs take the left elevator) but being confronted with something like this does make me think about what i DO believe in. Both Nyana and I believe that everybody here is here with a certain task to perform. When that task is done, you are recalled. To where of when or why is beyond our mortal comprehension, so we seldom speculate. But the life force that turns a few billion billion atoms into a loving, caring, playful dog (or a loving caring person for that matter) does not cease to function upon the arrest of its physical life-signs. It goes forth unto another plain, another task.
Everything has its task.
So we look back at the task Neelix has performed for us. Offering us something mutual to care for, bringing a dependent and very loving life-form in the close knit bond that is the "knights castle". He taught us what it was like to be loved unconditionally. But most of all he brought us home. Before we had Neelix we where completely free to go and stay as we pleased. We would be out the door every weekend, When Neelix came it all changed. We had to take him into account. Look at where we could go.. and soon discovered a whole new world of "dog friendly activities". Walking in the fields, sitting on the porch petting Neelix, Reading a book while he would be sleeping in your lap. Neelix "grounded" us in many ways and showed us the meaning of the word "home". The new house we bought last year had a wonderful little garden that we picked out, so Neelix could roam around there. So where we live ( ever so peacefully) today, is also part of His doing.
It is in what we believe, that we find solace. It is in the memories that we find comfort, it is in the ever passing flow of time that we must swim. A man is the sum of his memories, of his experiences. And it are others around us , humans, animals .. that shape the world we live in. In that thought I find my comfort. And to those willing to strike a difference between man and animal in the way we should think about life and death… i can only ask : Why. The cosmic processes that shape our very existence have entrusted our little furry friend with its own little personality.. Able to love, to care, to play, to comfort all those around him. Why should those cosmic powers divide whatever comes after that life onto a homo sapiens only club. As I read in the words of the magnificent Brie , allow me to paraphrase. If my dog ain’t in heaven when I get there, i’m not interested in going.
Thus life goes on, day by day, and in what we remember and what we believe lies the comfort for the nagging sorrow, as does in the kind words from our friends. A crisp bark echoes in my mental ear as Neelix plays fetch on a greater plain.
Sometimes we forget just how much time we spend online. In direct communication via instant messaging, Skype, Twitter or surfing, downloading and sending emails back and forth. Allmost
90 percent of my day is spend in close proximity to a broadband
connection ( at home and at work ) The other 10 percent is covered by
the Gprs connection abilities of my Blackberry or the emergency fallback connection of my 3G Usb modem for my netbook. Coming to think of it : We have come to the stage in our live where broadband connectivity is omnipresent in our every day.
may seem a gadget or a novelty at first, but after the experimental
stage wears of they either fade into oblivion to be replaced by the
next best thing, or they settle into the routine of everyday life. The
ability to be connected to the net has fallen into the latter category.
We are not only used to it, we live our lives accordingly. Technology
adapts to the ability to connect. Data shifts away from local harddrives and lives on the cloud. Communication channels slide over towards the IP-side of the spectrum. Applications slowly but surely erode from the desktop to reside on the world wide web.
So what happens if you take it away ? What happens when you disconnect such a web 2.0 lifestyle from the umbillical of the web. What if you ignite a "virtual" (if there is such a thing) EMP pulse onto the worldwide linkup to cyberspace. What if you put a blogger at sea.
happened to us today. On a three day cruise to Hull (of all places)
that we embarked on (an excuse to go shopping for Dr Who memorabilia)
our IP was
taken from us. It all started off nicely. Upon boarding we twittered
back and forth with some friends from the British Isles and were
shooting pictures up to cyberspace to keep the ‘posse in the cloud’ up
to date with our latest progress. A quick chat with thehome front just
before departure, a last minute check of the website, a rapid
pound-to-euro rate update .. What the Blackberry did not manage to
cover was nicely picked up by the 3G modem hooked up to the netbook.
So we set sail into the vast calm and mysteriously foggy northsea on our way to Hull. As the reception bars on the Blackberry dropped away we got a last textmessage from the home front
and then.. everything went quiet.Surely we had taken the ‘offline" time
into account and were sure to take along some reading material and the
Nintendo DS to keep us entertained. But the little Netbook that tagged along .. Was not prepared for the trip. I’ll give you some pointers on what I"ve learned about being a blogger at sea.
Netbooks : Netbooks are powerfull devices to say they least. Allthough
they can rely heavily on a connection to the net to survive, they can
still be very functional in an offline world. PRODUCTIVITY : Should you
feel the need to be productive on your travels at sea (or during other
offline periods) make sure you have some light local apps installed to
do your thing. Used to working in Googledocs ? Install Googlegears before you leave and use the "offline feature" to pull the entire GoogleDocs suite "offline" together with your documents. If you are unable to do that ? Just use the terminal (good old nano)
or notepad as surrogates for a little typewriter. Being offline does
give one the luxury to work ‘uninterrupted’ (as you can see by the
length of this post) ENTERTAINMENT : Don’t underestimate the
entertainment value of your netbook. Why not download some nice ebooks in advance and store them on a usb
stick or an SD card. Perhaps they are not very comfortable to read
online, but hey : Who says you can’t use comics or cartoons to keep you
entertained. If you have Itunes or another podcatcher installed ? Download a crapload of podcasts or videocasts and turn that little netbook in your own little television station. By the time the people on board are dosing off listening to the old fart playing tunes in the piano bar on deck 3, you’ll be into episode 6 of Geekbreef
TV getting your daily overdose of Cally Lewis. For those of you who
can’t get enough: Install MIRO and subscribe to a whole bunch of
channels or keywords and download away before you head off. Storage
space a little on the tight side ? Slide in that USB stick or memory card and store away.
Well, being lazy I mentioned all the content that you can subscribe to
and that gets "pulled in" If you are a movie freak fire up HANDBRAKE
and convert some of those DVD’s to mpegs that you can play on everything. As much as I love my Ipod touch I absolutely hate to watch an entire movie on it while "holding" it in my hands. The netbook provides you with a perfect portable cinema to do it all. MUSIC AND AUDDIOBOOKS: ItunesU offers you a lot of free lectures to download and listen to if you don’t want to spend money on audiobooks and stuff. And of course there are hundreds of podcasts to choose from. Beef up and ALWAYS HAVE FREE CONTENT AVAILABLE OFFLINE ! Use Itunes (or another podcatcher), Miro and perhaps the awkward "youtube video downloader" to
have fresh content on your device. Like a traveler that has to cross the desest
needs to have fresh water with him at all times, you also need to have
‘fresh content’ at your fingertips for when you hit that "dry patch"
called IP zero.
GAMES: You don’t NEED a NintendoDS or live connection to world of warcraft to keep you entertained. Look for Java versions of classic games that you can download on your Pc, linux box or Mac. With 99 percent of classic 8 and 16 bit games coming into the realm of abandonware, they are available to download AND they are free !
Aside from that you can install some 200 odd games from the Ubuntu repositories if you are using Ubuntu and even play OpenArena (quake3) on your netbook. ( Tip: If you find a geek-buddy that does the same thing, you can even set up your own tournament over wifi and .. oh wait.. i’m ranting again.)
But hey. Who said it always needs to be a computer. Perhaps you can have a go at reading a book ( you know , those hardcopied pdf things they bind together and sell in stores ), take your Kindle or sony
E-book reader packed with "stuff you need to read" Or "look around" at
the world around you. Take some pictures with your camera, talk to
strangers .. there is quite a lot you can do.
What I have found
to be a very nice "upside" of my "downtime" is the fact that you loose
the "online rush" when you go offline. You find the time and the
patience to work on that "long" article you’ve been meaning to write,
you might even ‘read through’ that manual you still have lying around.
The deprivation of ‘interrupting factions’ does isolate us from the
"attention Deficit Disorder’ lifestyle you have when you are CONSTANTLY
bombarded with NEW information. So take some offline time from time to
time. Stock up on content, pull the plug on the router and go into your
own virtual retreat where you can sit, meditate, consume or produce ..
in a calm and serene way.
I got the Sony E-book reader in the mail last Tuesday and have been
playing around with it ever since. For those of you who are waiting for
an in depth technical review of the device, well you’ll have to be
patient or just google for it. Plenty of people have done a review of
the device, and it’s thanks to their hard work that I was convinced I
needed to get one. Lets say the last 48 hours with the device have
consisted of unwrapping it (I shall show you the unboxing porn later), overloading it with 1400 e-books
( which proved to be a little too much, not for the device, but for the
person who planned to READ 1400 books.. me) and .. Draining the
Sony is a wonderfull company. You get a free rootkit with their audio cd’s, but you don’t get a freaking power adapter with your e-book reader. Sure they shove one of those USB-cables
into the box, that will let you charge up your device with your
computer… But still. I don’t always have my computer with me. ( For
example when i’m
in the bathtub) Now according to Sony the device has a battery life
that mounts up to the same number of page turns you will make while
reading "war and peace" .. Four times over. First of all : Who in his
right might is going to read "War and Peace" four times. You must have
a problem with your short term memory if you do that .. Or you realy
like the book that much .. ( in both scenarios : you’re a basket case).
But instead of reading "war and peace" you can just shove in the USB
cable and "THINK" you are charging the device .. While in fact you are
draining the battery. Oh joy ! So the first day of using my PR-505 was
overshadowed by battery-power-deprivation-syndrome. Where the nagging
alert of "battery low" kept nagging me while reading my first book.
The book I am reading is NOT a purchased book , it was a (little) .txt version of a star trek novel I had lying around on a cd somewhere. I had planned on printing a hard copy of the sucker but decided I love both my ink-cardridges
AND tree’s too much to do it. Since its a good book, I decided to use
it to loose my e-books virginity. First impressions ? Its awesome. The
E-paper truly "feels" like paper and the readability in the most
extreme light conditions is downright awesome. Sitting IN the sun (high
noon) outside proves to be a great way to read a book, no glare, no
hard time reading the small print, its just fine. The MORE light you
have.. the better. ( I had been reading the e-book on the couch the
night before , and as dusk set in i had to turn on a reading lamp to
continue my book). So in those accounts its just like having a "real
Content-wise the e-book is NOT very fast when it comes to PDF’s.
Although they are readable ( you might need to adjust the orientation
of the book to get a larger font size ) the Sony PR-505 is not the
fastest device in the world to open them. Think of booting up Acrobad adobe reader on your computer ( Version 5 or something, the ones packed with bloatware) It’s about that speed. The larger the pdf’s get , the slower the reader is. But you can do a little dirty hack to get around it. OPEN the pdf on your computer, Install a pdf printer, next PRINT the pdf , using your PDF printer to a PDF
file (are you with me) but instead of printing the entire book, print a
chunk of about 50 pages, or a 100. This way you will end up with
several ‘smaller’ pdf’s each holding a section of the book you want to read. The reader responds much faster when you use a smaller PDF file. I have also noticed that PDF files WITHOUT a lot of images display pretty fast, the more
first impressions of the PR-505 are very positive, partly the device is
easy to use ( Tip : Don’t buy an expensive Sony PR-505 Power-adapter,
just buy a Sony PSP Power adapter and jam that one right in, same voltage, same plug , 1/4th
the price) The fact that you can put "all" of your books on the same
device is just downright awesome. In my enthusiasm I shoved 1400 books
on the device, only to come to the conclusion it was getting very hard
to find the book I wanted. And that I needed at least 4 human lifetimes
to get through them all. So even if the new firmware supports SD cards
up to 8 gigabytes, the number of books that you will be able to store
on that kind of space .. is just too much to practically sort through.
My tip is to digg
up those 32 or 64 meg SD cards and put your books on those. Shove the
SD cards you don"t need in your wallet and just stick the one with the
book(s) you are reading into the reader. Building one massive library
on one single stick is not practical and makes the bootup time of the device way too long. (it has to index everything on the card).
I did get some remarks on Twitter about the whole DRM thing. The Sony reader was quite restricted when it came to DRM’d books that where not bought in the Sony store. You could not read Amazon Drm’d books on the Sony and vice versa. Well, boohoo. Most of you know what I think about DRM"d content. I DON’T BUY IT. With that I do not mean "I don’t believe in it" (I DON’T believe in DRM) But I also DO NOT BUY drm’d content. When being offered the choice to "steal" drm’d
content through channels of dubious legality (pirated shit) or be
‘stolen from’ by some major multinational who only ‘rents’ me the book untill they decide they need more money and scrap their DRM strategy .. We’ll Shiver me timbers matey .. I’m pirating that crap !
But.. you don’t NEED to pirate. There are soo many free books out there, free E-zines, Magazines, Novells, Fanfiction, Books, more then enough to keep you occupied. Tie in the internet with a PDF printer AND the cross platform E-book client "Calibre" and the internet is now yours to read. Subscribe to RSS feeds and have them converted to TXT files or PDF’s. Print your favorite webpages to PDF
format and read them on the fly. Who ever said its lame to copy and
paste text of the net into notepad and shoving it on your reader. There
is soooo much out there.. and it won’t cost you a dime.
So to get you started i’ve rounded up some links to free books and free content for you to get your hands on. Before you fire up the HMS Bittorrent and sail into the Pirate bay. Walk the just, non-drm’d line with me and get your free stuff.
Project Gutenberg Its like a library pass to infintity (and beyond).
Of course Scott Sigler’s latest novel " Contagious" is also available as free PDF chapters.
For those into the Ubuntu Linux field, why not put the FullCircle magazine onto ones e-book-reader.
And finally if you are looking for a cross platform (Win/lin/osx) E-book management application, Calibre is your thing .
Technology evolves, that much is certain. More and more we see the
advancement of technology in our daily lives and all around us. Like a
never receding tide the digital age rises higher and higher onto the
shore of the analog world. One by one my media havesuccumbed to this
digital uprising, this digital evolution that flows through my life.
Records where replaced by Cd’s more then ten years ago. Cd’s moved to
the archives as i digitized my entire collection. Paper made way for pdf’s, Polaroids for Jpg’s. Come to think of it 99 percent of every media that we have in our house is stored on a harddrive. The only things that I still enjoyed in analogue form where books. From time to time my interests in Star trek Novels
or technology books used to drive me from store to store, looking for
the things I needed. Since I mostly read English books, but live in a
Dutch-speaking country, it was very hard for me to find the stuff I
wanted to read.
Pretty soon I started to find books and txt’s online and even in 2001 started porting them to my palm. I have read countless books on my Palm and Ipaq PDA’s (the entire series of 2001 a space oddisey
and so on). I didn’t mind the small screen , I didn’t mind the fact
that I had to scroll every 2 minutes to go to the next page etc. I
loved the portability and the AVAILABILITY of the content that I loved.
Over the last few years my digital library has only grown. Pdf E-zines, Good blog posts, Pdf"s
of books and so forth. I have a countless collection that surely dwarfs
my "normal" book collection. When I wanted to read something I had to
print it out, put it in a clipmap
and read it that way. Not very tree friendly, expensive, time consuming
and impractical. So this year I decided to let go of the books and get
me an Ebook reader. Until now there where a few readers available but none had a price tag
that was interesting to me. ( Read : they where too expensive ) When
the kindle came out I was very curious and was feeling the urge to buy
one. But since they are not available inEurope, they where not an option.
A few weeks ago, when we where on our little holiday to Hull, I found myself eye to eye with the sony
PR-505. Taking a look at the E-paper I was struck by the fact how
"normal" it looks. Instead of staring at a palm’s LCD screen, it looked
more like ‘real paper’. The fact that power consumption was very low
and the storage capacity was high made me think … think hard ! And
want one. The Sony PR-505 ( I swore I was never going to buy a Sony
Device since the whole root-kit scandal a few years ago) is sexy
looking,relatively cheap (250 euro’s
is quite a bit of money, but if i don’t need to buy imported paper
books again, it will save me money) and is going to serve as a text
version of my ipod.
Opening up a digital gateway to free content online ( Free books, pdf’s , e-magazines and so forth) Its going to be another digital platform I can cary with me anywhere. I know some say its a drm-locked device. It does not allow you to put any books on it with a DRM that is not SONY’s Drm (just like the Kindle won’t let you read DRM’d books that are not DRM’d by amazon) Well gues what bunny’s ! I NEVER EVER BUY DRM"d content anyway. I would rather pirate than be forced into some kind of "rent-a-book-until-your-rights-are-revoked"
policy. Not that I need to. There is SO much content available online.
Never mind the fact that I have a copier at work that reverts paper
into pdf’s so i can just re-digitise any printed material that I own. This, to me, is my personal future. People who tell me it "doesn"t
‘feel’ like a book , or doesn’t smell" like a book can go live in the
library for all I care ( remember those ? Those places with books you
have to GO TO) My digital reader is just another evolutionary step. So
as I close up i’m going to head out and check my mailbox to see if my reader has arrived yet.
Can’t believe its been this long since I blogged , so i should probably
begin with ‘ Forgive me oh mighty inter-webs for being offline for a
while" As pennants I will surely serve up 40 tweets to make up for my
sinfull behaviour. But one of the reasons I have been so ‘unblogging‘ (mind you i DID put out a new docu-cast last week) is because I have been … Regenerating, that’s the word for it. Regenerating not as seen in the context of a timelord, where I would change my appearance magically to become a more attractive version of myself ( if this is even remotely possible) but in the context of ‘ regenerating some of my old skills". Perhaps the timelord
analogy is appropriate because in part the whole project i have been
working on for the last few weeks (and that has been sucking up my
energy like a black hole) does relate to my past. My past as a DJ.
a friend of mine I’m helping out in setting up and installing a sound
and light system , giving advice and looking at some alternatives to
cut corners (and money) on an otherwise very expensive venture. So as
of late I’m partially back in the land of mixers, pitch controlled cd
players, play lists, music, lighting and what have you. All though
"back" is a very big word. With more then ten years separating me
between the last time I slid the sliders of my favorite mixer in front
of a few hundred people and the present.. its like a whole new world. I
am amazed at the technological steps that have been taken over the last
ten years in the field of sound and light. Mixers, software, light
control..almost everything comes with a binary address these days and has a usb port sticking out from somewhere, begging to be plugged into a computer.
much passion as i carried for the "business" over a decade ago ( We had
our own sound and light company for eight years, touring the country to
setup roadshows and play at parties) i do findmyself as a stranger in
a strange land. Risking to sound like an old fart i could say ‘it was
all different back in my days’ and still be very close to the truth of
the matter. Massive light control tables with aspaghetti of electric wiring running into overcrowded trusses spanning the dancefloor , have been replaced by a single laptop, a mouse, a dmx control cable and one single power line
running into the rigging. No longer do we turn the power "on and off"
to make the lights flicker, we just let the computer "tell the lamp
what to do" according tot the program we have written.
"sound side" of things is just about the same. Forget records (we
stared to ditch those back in the old days), our instruments of mayhem
consisted out of a mixer and a double, 19” cd
player with pitch control. Playing one record you had to "feel" the
beat with you belly, while listening to the second track in your
headphones and match it up before you let both songs "merge"
seamlessly. These days you drag to mp3’s into the virtual cd players on your laptop, press sync and that’s that, you don’t even NEED a headphone anymore. Browsing through your cd
collection to find the next track you where going to play has been
replaced by entering the trackname in the search field of the mixing
software and click-click.
So after doing research, testing out products, playing with different types of software and generally
"feeling the water" for a possible return to my forgotten DJ career, I
find myself in the strangest state of mind. A state of mind that
wonders if the integration of digital technology into the whole sound
and light scene .. is such a good idea for me ? I feel out of place,
like an 80 year old being confronted with a VCR. One knows what it
does, but you just can’t get the hang of "using" it. The technology I
hold so dear in my everyday life has somehow stolen the soul of a world
that I was so comfortable in. This is one time where ‘tuning technology
in’ has resulted in "tuning me out". I continue to work on the project
and collect experience and expertise regarding the ‘current state ofaffairs
" in sound and light – land.. But with every button I press on the
digital light controller, with each slider i slide in the digital soundmixer software, with every mp3 I play .. I feel that I’ll probably never regenerate as a DJ again.