Category Archives: Twoo Wuv

Bragging Rights

It’s very hard to go through life sometimes and not feel overly proud of yourself. I’ve managed to accomplish quite a few things in my life that I’m pretty proud of, even if it has been awhile since I’ve done anything that is very exciting. But some recent developments in my life have really made me start to swell.

First of all, the whole "Zero to Hero" program I’ve started for myself seems to be working out very well (did I once write that I would do weekly updates on that? Obviously, I meant "Never", not "Weekly"). Since March 17, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds, which is more than halfway towards my long-term weight loss goal. More importantly, though, are the lowered blood pressure, the increased lung capacity, the increased endurance, the decreased resting heart rate. On the other hand, there is a downside: apparently, some of the fat that I used to carry around on my body helped cushion my oddly-shaped shoulder bones (yes, they’re oddly-shaped; confirmed by an orthopedist I saw for the pain), so my right shoulder has developed an impingement… which means that it hurts. A lot. For no very good reason at all. Fortunately, physical therapy begins next week, and this will hopefully clear up in a couple of months.

Second, I’ve got very good reason to believe that my employment situation will be changing for the drastically better within the next two weeks. I won’t go into details here until I find out for sure, but suffice to say that the new job I believe I’ll be starting very soon will be well on the way to my long-term career goals, and with a significant pay increase, to boot. What’s so special about that? For me, it’s that this will be the first job that I did not "fall into". All of the jobs I’ve held in the past I’ve gotten simply because I wanted a job and took whatever decent offer came along; I’m convinced, in fact, that many of my peers operate the same way when it comes to job hunting. This is the first time that I’ve made a definite decision about where I want to go, career-wise, and actively pursued — and gotten — a job that was in line with that direction. I’m quite well on my way to becoming the web developer that I want to be, and I feel good about that.

Special mention should be made here, I think, to acknowledge my current job situation. No, it isn’t where I want to be. But I have gained an incredible amount respect for the manager that I work for, who has been willing to work with me to find me a better work situation. In a way, I will be sorry to leave my current position; after everything that’s gone on over the past few months, I’ve reached a point where I can appreciate how fortunate I am to have the boss that I have; but, honestly, I can’t remain in my position, since it isn’t the kind of work that I enjoy doing, so I won’t be happy doing it. But even if this current opportunity doesn’t pan out, I will still feel much better about my current position, and I have ideas for some great contributions I can make.

So there you go. Bragging rights.

On a completely different topic, I just want to mention that the engagement photos are in. Here is a (bad) scan of the picture; Jennifer’s the attractive one on the left. So the last thing that I have to brag about is that I get to marry this incredible woman, who is absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to me. I want to say how proud I am of her, without sounding either condescending (as in, "Isn’t it great how Our Little Jennifer did that?") or self-aggrandizing (as in, "Yo! Check out this hot babe I just landed!"). I’m not sure I can, though; so I’ll simply say there that when Jennifer and I were simply friends, I was very proud to have her as a friend. Now that we’re engaged, that feeling has naturally multiplied a hundred-fold.

There is much more cause for a swelling of pride in our lives; but I’ll write more about that in my next journal entry, since this entry is about me, and the next one won’t be.

Finally, to you, Constant Reader: I know you’re out there. I know you lurk. I have a tracker installed, and I can recognize certain IP addresses. I know who you are and what kind of car you drive. So sign my guestbook, darn it!

Until next time…

When Did This Happen?

These past two months have been two of the roughest months of my life. All of a sudden, everything I had thought was true about my world and my role in it has changed completely upside-down, and things are suddenly a lot different than they once were. I’ve gone from sure and certain knowledge that I would never marry, let alone live in a beautiful house with an incredible wife, to being deep in the midst of planning not only a wedding but also the house that my fiancé and I are building together.

Her house. Our house.

Her patch of dirt. Ours.

My future alone.

Our future together.

It’s just one of those things that I had assumed would never be a part of my life. I used to get very depressed about what I thought was true, that I would never marry; but then I got used to the idea, and was even happy about it. Then along came Jennifer who, in her refreshingly straightforward way, said, "It’s no longer your own life, Richard. You now share it with me, the same way that I share my life with you."

Frankly, it was an impossible dream that I was happy fantasizing about, and not really worrying about making come true.

Upside down. Topsy-turvy.

It’s not as though my upcoming marriage to Jennifer is the only area in my life where major, hoped-for-but-unexpected-anyway goals have been achieved. In the area of my personal health, I had assumed that I was doomed to be very overweight for the rest of my life. Then I went and joined an exercise program through the hospital, hoing mostly just to bring down my blood pressure, and wound up losing something like twenty pounds in six weeks. Certainly nothing to sneeze at. And certainly an achievment that I’m quite proud of.

And achieving these goals has given me tons of courage to take on the other major area of my life where I’ve usually been lax: my career. And with lots of encouragement from friends, family, family of friends, and a surprisingly supportive boss, I’ve made surprising headway in advancing my career; I’ve learned, for example, to avoid headhunters and go straight to the employers themselves, which has gotten me much better results. I’ve found that I have a lot more to offer than I had originally thought. And I’ve learned that things just aren’t as bad as they seem.

In a way, major achievements and victories in your life can be just as frightening and difficult to cope with as major losses. Either way, you may find that the patterns and ways that you had used to handle your life before are no longer adequate, and you must now find new ways of doing things. And that can be frightening: what if the new ways don’t work? What if I try something and I fail? If I start doing things in a new way, what happens to that part of my life which was so comfortable doing things the old way?

At some point, though, you’re going to have to simply bite the bullet and come to grips with the fact that the old ways aren’t going to work any more, that you need new ways of doing things and new ways of being. You need to let go of the old ways, move away from what’s comfortable and familiar, and come to grips with the new. And, I think, that’s a large part of growing up.

Not everyone does that. Some of us choose a set path early on in life, and do things in one way forever. Sometimes the old ways stop working and start leading only to failure, but it’s simply easier to hang on to what you know, blaming the world around you for your misery, not understanding that it’s the choices that you continue to make that place you where you are now.

I’m in a strange place. I’ve never been this happy before in my life: I’ve found the person who fills that hole inside my being that I didn’t even know was there, and who completes me in ways I never even thought were possible. But on the other hand, there are more changes happening now in my life than have ever happened at any one time before, and it’s sometimes a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, I know I’m quite ready for it, and I know that when it’s all over — if it is ever over — my life will be much better than it ever has before.

So what I find myself wondering is this: when did my priorities suddenly shift? When did I become a person who thinks about mortgages and career advancement more often than he does about role-playing games and eating cold pizza until the wee hours of the morning? Wasn’t it just last week that my first roommate and I were wandering all over the UC Davis campus singing Monty Python’s "Lumberjack Song" at the top of our lungs? Not, of course, that I’ve stopped doing those things altoghether; it’s just that my values have changed, my priorities have shifted, and my life has moved on.

What I find myself asking most often is this: when did I start growing up?

There are, of course, those people who claim that I am no closer to being a mature adult now than I was at the age of three (hi, Mom!). But who cares what they think? Ultimately, my life isn’t being led for them. And now it’s no longer being led for myself, either. And that is probably the best part of the whole process.

Object Orientation and Object Obsession

The last time I did any serious computer programming (apart from playing around with macros in different Microsoft or Corel products) was when I was in high school. Back then, BASIC was spelled in all capital letters and lived on computers that ran CP/M as an operating system, and still had line numbers:

10 Input a$
20 Print "Hello, " a$
30 Goto 10

I owned a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 from Radio Shack, which had 64K of memory (only 32K of which could be accessed at any one time), with no hard drive but a dual floppy drive. It’s fun to point back at that little device and chuckle fondly, thinking, "How cute they were in their larval stage", but, really, those machines could often be deceptively powerful. I wrote a large program in BASIC on that computer which kept track of all of my appointments and contacts, had its own (very simple) scripting language, made advanced use of randomly accessing data from the floppy disk that served as the data disk, and built display screens "on the fly", like modern active webpage schemes do nowadays. Even though it was slow (and got slower as the appointment and contact databases got larger), it was, I think, pretty advanced; I had figured out how to write programs in BASIC that were "modular" such that the subroutines were generalized enough to be re-used over and over and over by different programs (even though every single bit of a program had to be loaded into memory instead of accessed in parts from a disk); I was treating my data as objects, more or less, and even borrowing some tips I’d picked up from working with Paradox with my uncle one summer and making my database more or less relational instead of completely flat.

In short, I was awfully impressed with myself at the time, and I still am, when I look back on that program and others that I wrote like it.

In college, though, for some reason, I decided not to pursue computer programming at all. I wanted to be a doctor, and thought that I wouldn’t need to deal with computers at all. Then when it became clear that I would never be a doctor (nothing will help cure such delusions better than doing volunteer work with sick people and realizing that you can’t stand the whining — that, and flunking a class in basic organic chemistry), I still didn’t go back to computers. I stuck with my philosophy major and never really gave a thought to programming or computers. I enjoyed working with them when I did, but I never really thought about computer work as a career.

But now that I’m looking at a serious career change, from the world of a Human Resources administrator to the world of a computer nerd, I’m starting the process of learning how to program all over. My experiences in recent months with HTML, DHTML, JavaScript, Perl, and Cold Fusion have reminded me how much I enjoy sitting down and bashing out something that makes the experience of using a computer more enjoyable and useful for other people.

But programming has also changed considerably since my high school days. Objects? Methods? Threads? Superclasses? Instances? Packages? Interfaces? Huh? What? I’m not worried about being unable to pick up these techniques and terminologies, and I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to do so pretty quickly. In fact, object-oriented programming is much like the predicate logic and modal logic that I used to play with in college. I’m just going to have to get used to the idea that when I want to do something in a program, I have to create an object to do it with.

Cue segue into a cheesy metaphor between computer programming and human emotion.

Object-orientation can be both a good thing and a bad thing. In computer programming, object-orientation is good, because it really does make things easier to do, and it makes playing with information a lot easier (in fact, I have recently discovered that there’s a new breed of database design, "object-oriented database management", or OODBM, which tries to treat records of data like objects instead of relating everything to everything else). In life, object-orientation can be either a good thing or a bad thing. It depends on what object you choose to orient on.

Some examples:

My fiancé’s object-orientation and obsession is towards cats. This is fine with me; I like cats and am even willing to sleep in the same bed with one or two of them as long as they understand that they’re not to approach my face (I’m allergic to cats, you see).

I, personally, have an object-orientation and obsession towards my career. Actually, I’m worried that it may not be healthy in some ways. I’ve sometimes found myself so obsessed with my future hoped-for career that I get overly upset about my current job, and even find my self-esteem wrapped up in it. This is definitely not good, as I come home from a day of work to my fiancé and whine at her about how my job sucks and how bad my prospects for future career development are. Fortunately, Jennifer is wise enough to know that I am not defined by my career or by how much money I make; and she’s even clever enough to be able to convince me of that too, at times.

Then again, there is at least one person in the world whose object-orientation seems to be focused on making me appear bad in my fiancé’s eyes. I am not a wealthy man, and I have debts, and I freely admit that up front. However, I certainly have no intention of having my future wife pay for my debts, I will never borrow money from her (nor did I ever borrow money from this other person that was not offered to me and that I did not pay back within a day), and if the unthinkable happens and Jennifer and I ever get divorced, I fully intend to leave our house with nothing but what I brought in to it. People who know me, fortunately, know that I am responsible and mature enough to own up to my own debts and that I am determined to pay them off on my own without anyone’s help, and my fiancé and I have discussed these issues on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, this other person’s object-orientation and obsession seems to be focused not only on making me appear bad to Jennifer, but to outright slandering me in public (without even doing me the courtesy of leaving out my name, as I have left out theirs). It hurts me, but it also hurts Jennifer. It’s an instance in life where object-orientation is a bad thing.

Okay, I admit that this metaphor is stretching things a bit. Fortunately for me, I have never claimed to be a literary genius, which lifts from me the burden of making sense to you, my three or four devoted readers.

But I’ll draw forth another analogy here, which harkens back to my May 22, 2000 Letter to Jennifer; when I was 18 or 19 years old, I figured that I know everything there was to know about relationships and the human heart, just as I thought I knew everything there was to know about procedure-oriented programming. Nowadays, I know that, just as programming is a hell of a lot more complicated than I had ever thought it was, the mysteries of the human heart and its vagaries are a lot more complicated than I had even suspected back then. And now here I am, making a career change into a new field that I thought I understood, and making a significant life change — from single to married — in my own heart, which I also thought I understood. I don’t understand either programming or relationships as well as I thought I had, but I am enjoying the process of ex
ploration, discovery, and learning. All over again

Letter to Jennifer

Are you to blame for these massive changes in my life, for the sudden disruption in my life’s direction?

When I was 19, I was pretty sure I had life all figured out. I knew what love was, I knew what relationships were like and how they worked, and I knew precisely what was wrong with all of my friends’ love affairs. Never mind, of course, that I had never had a serious relationship of my own up to that point; I knew everything, and nothing was going to change that.

Of course, by the time I had turned 32 just a few months ago, I realized that what I knew about love and relationships amounted to very little. There’s no better cure for arrogance on these issues than a good dose of reality: my previous two relationships, while not outright disasters, had proven, ultimately, to be errors in judgement on my part, and with one or two outright calamities in there for the fun of it, I realized that relationships were a lot more complicated and love a lot more mysterious than I had ever thought.

I’ve had good relationships in the past; I dated one woman for more than five years and had a great time, though I never considered spending my life with her. And one other woman I ran away from when things got too serious and too good. I’ve thought, in the past, even while with other women, that I should have stuck it out with someone else, maybe thought that I could have been happy with so-and-so, or maybe I would have learned to tolerate being with whats-her-name for a lifetime.

Finally, I just figured that relationships and I should simply leave each other alone, and that the love I needed in my life was simply the love of good friends and close family. I was fully prepared to spend the rest of my life as the crazy (but cool) single uncle to my niece, the somewhat eccentric godfather to my godson, and a good family friend to those friends of mine with families. At the end of my life, I had planned to be one of the doddering old coots playing chess in the park with the other doddering old coots, never married, generally friendly and smiling and willing to play chess with the kids as long as they would put up with me ranting about damn modern music and the government.

That was my plan. That was what I was counting on. I knew that I would be content with my life like that, that I would not feel lonely as long as I had friends and family that I loved and that loved me, and I simply didn’t feel that I needed anyone to make me feel complete. I was already complete.

Now, you’ve come along, and all my plans have changed.

I’ve known you for over two years. That whole time, I’ve been attracted to you and I knew that if we had a chance we would make a great team. Sometimes I would be involved with someone else and I would be happy with them; sometimes you would be with someone else and I would be happy for you as long as you were happy. But then there was that night when it was just the two of us, at the end of a busy day, watching a movie and enjoying each other’s company. It took every ounce of nerve I had to kiss you that night; and words simply don’t exist to describe how amazed, shocked, thrilled, and happy I was that you kissed me back.

Sometimes I still reel in memory of that first moment: you kissed me back.

Everything clicked and came together; like a new sound card fitting perfectly into a slot on a motherboard, or a protein binding with the right enzyme, or a picture puzzle piece which fits so perfectly with the mate that you can’t even see the seam. That’s how I felt at that moment; that’s what I had sensed all that time that we knew each other; and that’s how I still feel now.

Asking you to marry me was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life. I knew how you felt about marriage: how it scared you, how you always told me that you thought the best marriage would be in a duplex, and so on. And I knew how I felt about asking someone to marry me when I hadn’t even been dating them for a full year. I knew that our friends and families might be dismayed and that some of them might even try to talk us out of it. I knew that you would probably say no, and that the "No" would be there between us forever after that.

I asked you anyway, though, because I know that we belong together. You’re the intelligent, funny, witty, stable, positive, beautiful woman that I had always dreamed I would be with but never dared believe I would find. I knew you would say no, but you said yes. And I’m still reeling from that. I’m still expecting to wake up and find that I’ve never known you and that you were nothing more than a perfect dream; or that someone’s slipped me some drug into my coffee, and I’ll wake up strapped to a bed in rehab somewhere in Vacaville, and when I ask for Jennifer, no one will know who I mean.

I know that our marriage will not always be easy. I have seen people who were married and who were still in love with each other but who still had fights and bad times. I know that there will be times when we’ll be awkward with each other, that we’ll be confused, that there will be misunderstandings and fights, and that things won’t always be smooth.

But I also know that we will find ways to handle these problems. I don’t mean to reiterate the tired cliche that says, "Love will find a way"; but I do know that you and I can talk about these things, that we can work them out, that we can solve our problems. I get to spend the rest of my life with you, my love, and I can’t imagine anything better than that.

The Best Way to Experience Northern California

What can I say about Sunday that hasn’t been said here, here, and here? It was one of those days that you expect will start out one way, and ends up another. In this case, I had expected to have a miserable time, because I, personally, hate moving with a passion: there’s got to be a better way to spend an afternoon than lugging boxes and furniture around. Usually I help out if asked because the people moving are friends of mine, and they’ve promised either to feed me or to give me beer for my troubles. Those of you who know me already know that promising me good beer (not something like Michelob or Budweiser — contrary to what the advertisers would have you believe, most American produced beers are simply not beer; in fact, I’m certain that if you sent a pint of Miller Genuine Draft to a laboratory for analysis, the results would come back saying something like, "Your horse has diabetes." Guinness counts as beer; I like beer you can eat with a fork) is a good way to get me to do something. But in this case, the people moving were people I didn’t know, there was no mention of food, and nearly every single one of the people I was going to be with that day takes a perverse pride in declaring, "I just don’t drink beer". This is usually said with a haughty sniff, a tone reserved for the cultural elite who usually consider themselves above, say, Shakespeare or Thomas Pynchon, and who claim to have never heard of Star Trek.

So, why did I agree? Probably because Lisa IM’ed me and said, "Hey, Richard, can you help my friends move? Your girlfriend already said that she would."

Yep. Lisa blackmailed me into it. Pure and simple.

Okay, no, not really. But as I was lugging the umpteenth box of heavy hardback books (with lead covers, I presume) up the tortuously narrow — quite attractive — staircase, I found myself wishing that Lisa had blackmailed me into this. That way I could have said, "Hey! You made me do this!" And, I admit, my temper did get stretched a bit thin a couple of times.

But, you know, it really wasn’t that bad. My friends have mastered the fine art of amusing themselves under the most trying circumstances, and I like to think that I’m pretty good at it myself. Mishaps became adventures, and the day we spent in the rain moving perfect strangers ("Nobody’s perfect," my mother reminded me later that night) from Oakland to Berkeley is now the stuff of legends.

At one point, for example, Lisa’s new "housemate" (Lisa is very firm about this point), Michael, managed to vanish, just as we were about to try moving the couch upstairs. A search of the new apartment — small as it is, the apartment is riddled with dozens of hidden nooks and crannies, and it reminded me of something out of a Clive Barker novel — revealed that Michael was literally in the closet. He’d gone in to look at something, the door had shut behind him, and there was no handle inside. Apparently he’d been stuck for something like ten or fifteen minutes before he was finally rescued. After the inevitable joke about being "in the closet" had died down, Michael finally showed his face to us again, looking somehow wiser for his experience.

And I got to experience a moment of self-righteousness, which I always treasure. When a dolly full of books that I was leading down the ramp of the moving truck fell over onto the asphalt, and everyone else was still dry and safe in the truck laughing at me, I was able to say, "I’d just like to point out that while you’re all laughing at me, I’m the only one who’s actually moving anything at the moment." I live for opportunities to feel morally superior to other people, so I felt very pretentious and proud of myself as the laughter of the others simply increased in volume and derision. But at least I knew that I was in the right. Moral superiority is a lonely call, sometimes.

At the end of the day, some of us discovered that we had musical talent, or at least claimed to; between the wind instruments, the percussion, and the name of an ex-Beatles wife, we found that we could form the Yoko Ono Double-Oboe Bongo, Bones, and Whistle Band. Our first album, Can’t Get Enough Coffee (featuring "The Prig Song", which Lisa can’t get enough of), will be out sometime in the next fifty years. Our band sang loudly and proudly as we left Oakland for Mountain View, to indulge in some of the best sushi in Northern California, and then on the way down to San Jose to drop off Lisa and her new housemate.

Things became more sedate after that, as the new girlfriend and I decided to swing by and visit my parents (who live near Lisa) and my sister (who lives near my parents), discovered that various emotions can ooze out of one’s various orifices like various substances (pride, for example, oozes out like mint jelly), and had a quiet drive back from San Jose to Davis, thus completing our circuit of Northern California.

We had originally planned to go to San Francisco this past Sunday, to play and hang out. At one point during the move, while I was finding myself sprawled on the stairwell with a couch in my lap, I asked myself whether I would ever let Lisa plan another day in the Bay Area for us again. And looking up at all of my friends and feeling overcome with giddiness, I realized that I certainly would. Anytime.

Until the next time, I somehow manage to remain,

Note: For other perspectives on Sunday’s adventures, check out Thursday’s Child, Lisa’s Journal, and Jennifer’s Journal. Most of what they say is true. Most.

Clear Cutting and Sweeping Away

Yes, I know that I used this very same graphic in my last journal entry; but I felt that it might be appropriate to use it once again.

This past Thursday — yesterday, in fact — was supposed to be a fairly normal day at work. Install a few applications on my users’ computers, do some routine maintenance on a couple of other systems, make sure that the database is up to date. That sort of thing.

I opened up my mail program and saw a virus warning. Now, I’ve been fed too many scare stories of viruses with names like "Good Times" or "PenPals" to ever believe a virus warning that comes to me via e-mail. This new one was called "ILOVEYOU" and was supposed to do all kinds of horrible things to your computer: zap your hard drive, wipe your memory, eat your processor, seduce your dead grandmother, all of the horrible things that viruses which spread themselves through e-mail do.

Surprise, though: the ILOVEYOU virus turns out to be real. Within fifteen minutes getting the first warning about this virus, I received eight copies of a single message — subject line, "I LOVE YOU" — from a co-worker who had received the e-mail, opened it, and run the attachment. And within seconds after that, everyone of my users, not to mention every computer in the building, had received the same e-mail from the same co-worker. Some had received it eight times, like me; others had gotten up to fifteen copies of the damn thing.

Fortunately, I’d trained my users well, and all of the other Technical Support Coordinators in Human Resources had, too. No one else opened the attachment, so while everyone received multiple copies of the e-mail, no other computers were actually infected. I have a vague memory of running from user to user, instructing everyone to shut down Outlook, until we had an idea of what, exactly, this nasty little program would do.

To add to the confusion, the University is actually between anti-virus software site licenses. About 18 months ago, somewhere in the arcane machinations which control the bureaucracy of the University’s Information Technology division, someone decided that Dr. Solomon was no longer good for the University, and every department had to un-install Dr. Solomon and install Norton Anti-Virus. Now, recently, NAV has fallen into disfavor, and we must now all switch to McAffee. Except that when ILOVEYOU hit, our licenses for McAffee had not yet been completed and our licenses for NAV had all expired. So getting anti-virus protection for our computers was an exciting experience to say the least. All I personally have to say is that I’m very happy that I am not in the position where I would have had to repair a broken Exchange server.

Which, in my opinion, is where the bulk of our own problem lies. The Human Resources division, like — apparently — just about every other major business in the world, including the English Parliament and the United States Department of Defense, is hobbled with the Microsoft suite of Office applications. We’ve weeded out any sort of diversity in our network, and replaced all of the sturdy independent applications — like Eudora, WordPerfect, Netscape, and so on — with Microsoft’s Juggernaut, the Office 97 package. This is sort of like clear-cutting an ancient old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest and replacing it all with acacia trees all bred from the same stock. Yes, technically, you’re replacing the wood; but your new forest is obscenely vulnerable to a single attack. In a computing environment, it’s nice to be able to reduce your tech support expenditures by paying people just to learn a single package, but there’s a price to pay for such unnecessary functionality. Without locating and disabling the obscure default setting needed to make the system truly useful (a feature which all Microsoft products share), you make your system vulnerable to just this sort of malicious attack.

The lesson to be learned here, is the variety and diversity, whether you’re working with a forest or with a computing environment, is good.

Cue segue. I’m going to draw a really ugly analogy between human emotions and old-growth rain forests and computer networking environments. Wish me luck.

Sometimes, upon the end of a relationship, we find ourselves desperately wishing to get together with someone who was Just Like My Last Love: someone who acts the same, who looks the same, who does the same things… Genetically identical to our last love. We figure, after all, that if such a person made us happy once before, then they will again.

At the end of my last relationship, I spent some time doing just that. I wanted to find someone who was just as attractive, just as intelligent, just as sexy, and so on. I wanted my next relationship to be very similar to the last one, if not exactly the same.

But if all of your relationships are identical, you open yourself up to all of the same hurts and problems again and again. We’ve all heard stories of the women or men who enter abusive and dangerous relationships over and over and over again, never learning their lesson, and so on. I’ve never fully understood the tendency myself, but after watching computer networks fail all over the world because they were, well, genetically identical, I think I see the sense: if all of your relationships are the same, then you don’t have to learn new coping techniques or ways of communicating. And, sadly, if you’re too full of pain, then you probably don’t even have the energy to learn these new techniques. In a way, it’s simply a matter of economics.

But by varying your relationships — by keeping yourself open to all possibilities, even ones that you thought had slipped you by years ago — you keep yourself flexible, you can continue to grow and learn and enjoy, and you find yourself better able to handle your newer relationships.

This is the theory at least. Take it for what it’s worth.

On a more pragmatic level, there is a new relationship in my own life. There are some similarities between this relationship and the one that I ended just recently. The new woman in my life is very intelligent, very attractive, very sexy, but in very different ways than the last. I hadn’t intended to enter into anything new — in fact, I had planned to stay away from all hints of any new relationships for at least a year. This came as a complete surprise to me, and it has, indeed, been a very pleasant one.

Change is good. Diversity is good. I don’t want to imply that the last woman in my life was a bad person in any way, of course, nor that novelty is the reason for my feelings now. Hell, I don’t want to draw any comparisons at all, or analyze anything too deeply. I just wanted to point out the benefits of keeping yourself open to variety, change, and new — or old — possibilities.

There’s very little talk in the way of diversifying our departmental network. We’re sticking with the Microsoft behemoth, keeping diversity at a minimum, maximizing our exposure to deadly attack; and when such attacks come (because they inevitably will), we’ll be terribly vulnerable. By sticking to just what we know, we’re putting ourselves in danger.

Well, perhaps I’m stretching. All I can really say is that while my department’s computing environment has been clear-cut, I’ve been swept away. We’ll see who lasts longer.

Here’s hoping that it will be less than three weeks until the next time…

Cinderella Need Not Apply

When it comes to relationships, I am not a Nice Guy. Or, at least, I try not to be.

Every now and then I browse through the personal ads on various sites on the web. I don’t answer any or place any of my own because of some bad experiences I’ve had (details available only in face to face conversation, I’m afraid), but it’s interesting to read through them and see what people think they want.

How many ads from women, for example, do I see that claim they want a "fairy tale romance"? Quite a few (I don’t have numbers, but this is a personal page so I’m not obligated to prove anything). A "fairy tale romance", I think, based on conversations I’ve had with women who want them, is one in which Prince Charming rides in on a shining white stallion, sweeps the princess off of her feet, and the two of them ride off into the sunset forever.

I am convinced that people tell themselves "stories", with themselves in the starring role, which explains the world to them. Sometimes these stories are helpful and healthy, and sometimes they are downright harmful. I’ve met many women, for example, who tell themselves the "Rapunzel" story, in which they are the beautiful princess who is locked in a tower by evil forces (sometimes these forces are cruel parents, sometimes a heartless society, and so on), waiting for the perfect Prince Charming to come along, rescue them, and take them away to live Happily Ever After. The Rapunzel women never leave their towers; they wait their whole lives for Prince Charming to come along.

A variant of the Rapunzel story is the Cinderella story. Women who tell themselves the Cinderella story at least get to leave the tower, but they still need to wait for a Fairy Godmother — sometimes the Fairy Godmother comes in the form of a great job, or a windfall of cash — before they think they have a hope of going to the ball where Prince Charming will meet them and sweep them off their feet, and take them away to live Happily Ever After…

There are other stories, of course, but the main theme is that the woman is the hopelessly misunderstood and helpless, downtrodden, and misused Beautiful Princess who will one day find Prince Charming and live Happily Ever After. The problem, though, is that Prince Charming is never perfect (he ends up being unable to keep a job, or laughs a bit too loud, or spends a little too much time watching football). And "Happily Ever After" is a mythical state of being, in which a romance lasts forever, and there is never any fighting or negative feelings, and the head-over-heels in love state of mind never fades. Unfortunately, there is no such state of being, and the feeling of "being in love" will almost always fade.

Generally, I think of such women as "Fairy Princesses", and I’ve had far too many experiences with them. Fortunately for me, very few such encounters have turned into long-term commitments.

To be fair, men also tell themselves these sorts of stories. It’s harder for me to find fairy-tale counterparts for men, but I’m sure they’re out there. Some men I’ve met, for example, tell themselves a story in which they are a misunderstood Prince who must battle a horde of hags until he meets the True Fairy Princess. These are the men who go through life in a haze of misinterpretation of the women they meet, and each relationship they get involved in invariably ends when he founds out his partner is, after all, only human (I have to admit that the story I tell myself is probably a variant of this one). Some men cast themselves as a male version of a Fairy Princess, and wait in some tower for Princess Charming to come along.

Then there are the Nice Guys(tm).

Women — especially the Heartless Bitches of the world (i.e., the Real Women) — probably know who I mean by the Nice Guy. These are the guys who worship women, who place them on pedestals, who do everything they can to please a woman and completely ignores his own wishes and desires for the woman he’s set his sights on. One such Nice Guy told me, "All women are angels"; another said, "All women are angelic creatures who could not possibly ever be corrupted". Honestly, setting women apart like this really is degrading, in my opinion; it implies that women are not human.

These Nice Guys have no backbone, no spine.

This is why I try not to be a Nice Guy. For one thing, I’m certainly not perfect enough to be Prince Charming; I won’t even try. I won’t place a woman on a pedestal. I won’t worship a woman. I’ll freely get angry and pissed off at a woman if need be, and happily admit I’m wrong when I make a mistake. I don’t believe in Happily Ever After, and I can’t live my life pretending that I’m there. But I can do my best to treat a woman with honesty, respect, and dignity, just like I treat any other sort of human being. I can learn from my mistakes and do better next time around.

I’ll never be perfect, of course. So any Fairy Princess looking for a Prince Charming had probably just look elsewhere.

(Just to address a rumor that I heard over the weekend: No, I am not dating anyone. I am not currently in love with anyone, despite what some people may think. It is true that I have been on a few "dates" with a couple of different women since ending my last relationship, but I’m not actively pursuing anything serious right now. Hope that clears things up.)

A Correction

In my last journal entry, I mentioned a Pablo Neruda poem which began "Today I am going to talk about pain" and ends "Today I am simply in pain". Man, was I ever wrong!

First of all, it’s not by Pablo Neruda; it’s by Oscar Vallejo. Second, it begins, "Today I am going to talk about hope". And third, it isn’t even a poem, for crying out loud. It’s an essay.

My apologies for any confusion this might have caused.