Friday, May 05, 2006

Vermillion Sands

Recently I've discovered a new author who intrigues me. J. G. Ballard. Now of course for all you well read people you will be shocked - "He's never read J. G. Ballard!". Well I haven't. So there.

But now I've been exposed to some of his writing and I have to say I like it. Crash was a little bit too sexual for my tastes. I confess that I'm a prude at heart. But I've just finished Super-Cannes and it's excellent.

It deals with psychosis and the anarchist in all of us. Although it deals with anarchist at the worst level. It handles the struggle of conformity with chaos and tries to parallel the departure from conformity and the return to conformity as being surrounded by greater chaos.

I am reminded of a famous chinese idiom:

yi3 jiu3 jie3 cheng2 - "Drinking more to cure drunkeness".

That's what the book handles. It also represents very strongly a pirate utopia. Something that we've seen before. A warped pirate utopia where - instead of freedom from rules - the goal is freedom from conformity, freedom from repression. However that freedom is merely an illusion.

It makes me wonder - can we create a pirate utopia where true freedom of expression, of action is really possible? Do we need insanity or psychosis to accomplish this, or is the actual population requirement that of a perfectly sane and balanced set of people. Can we find such people and, if we found them, would we want to spend time with them?


I see a flock of white doves. In formation they wheel under a brilliant sun. One looks at me and comes close, fluttering to balance in the wind. His eye stares into mine and we merge in his gaze. It is a conduit sharing information between us. A path created directly between his eye and mine for the purpose of sharing information. What he passes to me I don’t know. But I can feel the loss of memories as they transition to him. From today I will always be more than I was before. That’s natural. But I shall also be less. A subset has fled my mind and lives in his.

Wind moves us apart and he is gone with the other doves spread across the horizon. I watch them until they are just white dots lost in an empty sky. I look down at my feet and up at the wall and see them through the eyes of the bird. I see them through the eyes of the other and blink, slowly, changed.

Zi3 qi4 dong1 lai2

The purple air comes from the east.
Zi3 qi4 dong1 lai2

"It is sadi that once when Lao Zi traveled west, as he was coming out of hte Hangu Pass the official in charge of the pass saw purple aire coming from the east, a sign that a sage would soon arrive. After a while, Lao Zi came by riding a blue ox. The official received him with respect and asked him to write Tao Te Ching."

Best Chinese Idioms

Continuity & Return

I arrived on the island at dusk. It wasn’t a great time to show up, with the sun a glowing red ball on the horizon, a group of strangers to introduce myself to and no idea where to go. But neither was it a bad time either since on the sands in front of me stood a female figure. I approached her cautiously, not willing to disrupt her meditation, not willing to be seen as sneaking up on her either. She stood there staring at the flame plumes of oilrigs just beneath the horizon I recognized her. Akira. She turned to look at me but there was no recognition. In the distance a helicopter moved away from the island, it’s navigation lights flashing in coded morse. In her eyes I saw fear, barely controlled. She looked at me. “Do you think they’ll ever make it back?” Then she turned and ran into the growing darkness. I, after a moment, followed her more slowly.

Return to Absolom

So it's been a long time since I last created a post. In fact I had all but given up. Why? Because no one commented, no one seemed interested and it seemed as if I was writing for nothing. However I've been convinced to start writing again. Someone posted some comments and told me a few things that influenced me.

In short it - doesn't matter who's listening. As long as I want to say something, that should be enough.

Expect more here soon.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Here we are

"I left my heart back in the Orient
Down on Bali bays
It’s not the way that I should feel
But it’s the way I’m gonna stay
Downhearted, Broken dreams that never really started
Downhearted, Broken dreams that never really start"

Aussie Crawl

Thursday, March 09, 2006


It's time to make a change - now doesn't that sound foolish! You don't announce to people when you're going to make a change. No. You don't pre-warn them so that they can get their defences up and start sniping at you from behind sandbags and board room tables. You just change and while they're still asking in a Hollywoodesque fashion - "Where'd who go?" you're off and the change has occurred.

So step 1: Talk to interesting people.

The goal on this blog - from now on - is to compile a list of interesting people business-science-social-other that I should go and talk to. For what reason? Change.

Please start suggesting people in Hong Kong since it's cheapest to get there. Then try to work around to Sing, Taiwan, Phillipines, Thailand etc.. before going to USA and Europe - USA & Europe being far away and expensive.

Web Developer Wanted

I'm looking for a young web-developer with some project experience to lead / be sole prototype developer for a web-based software that we're looking at building.

Currently the requirements are as follows:
  • 1) Opensource database (sequel server?)
  • 2) Running on own server (needs to be able to setup web-server / dbserver etc..
  • 4) AJAX front end
The company can support the developer with some database design, quality assurance, feature design skills but really we want someone who can think/work for themselves and who is detail oriented.

Salary is to be discussed, and equity share is a definite possibility.

Needs to live in Hong Kong.

Call me - +852 9661 9171

Flat Dice

I'm just reading two books that were given to me on my Birthday - one by my brother and one by myself.

The first is Michael Ondaatje's Billy the Kid and the second is "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. One is the biography of Billy the Kid, a collage of perspectives and psychoses which merge and blend and stand out. The other is an optimistical look at globalization and the world that we may inhabit in the future.

Why am I mentioning them in the same breath?

For precisely the reasons mentioned above. Ondaatje's Billy the Kid represents how reality is formed - neither positive nor negative nor realistic just 'being'. A concept difficult to describe.

Friedman represents things in a childishly optimistic light. For instance he describes the Chinese socialist system as "pretty ... meritocratic" - something that's optimistic in the extreme.

But since he's talking based on his brief chinese experience, is he wrong? I know a lot of the Singaporeans and Hong Kongnese are the opposite - they are very negative about Chinese attitudes and the bureaucracy and corruption in the bureaucracy. If Friedman is right, are they wrong?

And if I call them all wrong, what does that make me, with my 3 years of China experience? Now if I were humble I would say that after 3 years, all I know is that I don't know anything.

But I'm not that humble. So what I'll say is that they're both right and they're both wrong. That reality is infinitely more complex than that.

Like Ondaatje's Billy the Kid, that's how reality is made.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Wine Women & Song

Last weekend, in honour of my birthday I went to Macau with some friends. We ended up going over on Friday night, checking out the bars, and then saturday morning & during the day eating, drinking, riding bicycles etc.. Then saturday night we were back in Hong Kong and had a good relaxing night out.

Aperture & Media

More & more since I've discovered Apple computers, I've started trying to convince my colleauges that it's the right way to go.

Yesterday I was trying to convince a photographer colleague of mine that his work would be different with an apple & Aperture.

Then today I found this article about Aperture.


Just a brief note - It's my birthday tomorrow. Another year gone by, a quarter of a decade over and a new 5 year period starting..

Happy Birthday to myself.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Global Mentoring Network

On the note of the previous rabidly right wing and autocratic article: What about a Global Mentoring Network.

Take the opposite approach to the usual children meeting sexual predators on the internet and let's identify adults who have real experience & knowledge and who agree to give their time mentoring via phone calls and e-mails and give knowledge to young people.

Let's start this for 15yo to 25 year olds - without really splitting ages into categories and let's get together a network of entrepreneurs, intellectuals, politicians, thinkers who really care about young people and get them to share their thoughts and feelings.

All communication can be under psuedonyms if neccessary, and all communication made public for learning. Take advantage of existing knowledge bases, and push the network people to extend those knowledge bases.

Building The Future

Education in our modern system sucks. Wait a minute - it's not even a modern system. Globally our education system is based around outdated victorian methods, memorization and a generation of teachers that feel afraid of their students - afraid and threatened by children that to a large extent are smarter than they are and will be paid more, achieve more and live more than they do.

Let's face it - teacher is not exactly the position that everybody dreams of getting out of high school. And while it's easy to say teaching is a vocation, it's much more difficult to face the fact that today's teachers, in Europe, the anglo-saxon world and possibly in asia are chronic underachievers with problems relating to reality.

This sounds dramatic yes? Well it's meant to make people agressive. The fault lies with a world that's more interested in keeping their children quiet and occupied and conforming, than making them innovative, creative and intelligent builders.

It was ok in the past to build labourers in schools - we needed labourers. People to work in the factories, people to do monotonous tailorean jobs in automotive, steel, agriculture and other primary industries.

Today the western world is faced with globalisation, and we have enough trouble moving our existing labour force to higher tech skills without the education system creating a whole new generation of labourers.

In addition to this we're all getting older, so in a world where the working life may be 60 years instead of 30, adult education is more and more vital as people need to reskill and reskill and reskill.

So what can we do to improve education? What areas do we need to focus on?

Areas to focus on are easy. We need to start focusing more on languages. Every child graduating from high school should have a good grasp of English and should enjoy using it. This applies even for German and French nationals. English is the key to the modern world. Most importantly, at the moment, it's the key to technology. If you don't speak English - it's hard to get around on a wider internet. It's hard to learn how to program well and it's hard to achieve in a world of multinationals.

Then a second language must be mandatory (if English is not already the second language). Don't be afraid of pushing children. Challenge them, make them enjoy learning.

We need to focus on technology in particular. There's no excuse for someone to graduate from school and not be able to type. That's like not being able to write with a pen. There's no difference. Equally the concepts behind programming should be taught. They're not that hard - if taught properly - and they're much more important than biology or astronomy.

What they lead to are wider problem solving skills - thinking out of the box. That's one advantage the western world has over the asian world. Our children can think out of the box - and that' s one unique trait that will maintain our competitiveness in a world of multinationals.

What we can do to improve education is to spend real money. Forget about retirement money - the old people aren't producing - and paying for their high living standards is draining the rest of the western world. Additionally we all know it's not sustainable. Instead we need to invest in a vast younger generation that will create wealth that can then be spent to some degree on looking after the elderly - but that wealth has to exist first. Our survival needs to be assured first.

Spend that money on decent teachers - teachers earn nothing and they perform badly. I've rarely met a good teacher in my student life and equally rarely met one at university. Either we need to completely destroy the existing structure of the education culture - or create a parallel culture for those children we identify as being in the top 30 percent. Does this sound elitist? It is. It's the only way we are going to survive with face in a world of multinationals.

Spend that money on learning technology. Spend it on new language education projects. Spend it on student experiences that create a desire for learning. Seeing a poet, an author, a director a musician a businessman and getting real life mentoring is something that is priceless.

Spend that money on one on one learning. Fundamentally socialization etc.. is well taught on the sportsfield - let's leave it there. Learning itself is best taught in small ratios - small ratios of teachers to students.

Spend that money on buying off the parents. Parents have an agenda with their children, but with few exceptions (I was lucky) all they really want to do is be convinced that their child is ok and be left alone by their children. Offer the parents this to keep them quiet while you extend their child's ability. Parents are naturally conservative - don't let them interfere with an education program.

Alternatively the most important education comes from parents. The learning that sticks also comes most from parents. But that depends largely on luck. The number of parents who are capable of this is very low and therefore can't be relied upon in an education program.

Equally spend that money on educating the parents - but that's likely to be the most expensive and almost impossible.

Look to the old man of the mountain for the real answers.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Seeing The World

It's funny looking back to see how much social, infrastructure & technology fiction has moved into reality in the last decade. It's even more interesting that what's really moved is not the fiction, but the perspective.

I'm facing my next birthday soon - I won't say which birthday, but it's a crucial one. The last decade flew by and I can clearly remember what I was doing 10 years ago. What my challenges were, what my doubts were and how I faced them.

I can also remember - more than 10 years ago I might add - watching the latest James Bond film with some new bond called Brosnan and thinking that jumping into planes while both plane and agent were falling was unrealistic. Today I now believe that might even work. Equally, to quote another Bond movie (I watched it last night) the sledgehammer striking the unbrakeable windscreen seems feasible - having seen Bayer's fantastic polycarbonate Makrolon at work. Markolon's been around for 50 years though, and so have sky-diving techniques so why do they seem feasible now, but didn't before?

The truth is, that while technology changes and commentators invoke Moore's Law, what's really changed is the perspective that we hold. That's not just the perspective change that a teenager goes through while becoming an adult - as I did. That's the fundamental perspective change that each life experience brings, and allows the re-evalatuation of previous experiences.

So how do I measure my last ten years? In many ways I haven't changed at all, merely keeping pace with the world - if that. But if I look at the evolution of my perspective, well; it has sailed across oceans. And that makes me very pleased indeed.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Third Policeman

"Policeman MacCruiskeen put the lamp on the table, shook hands with me and gave me the time of day with great gravity. His voice was high, almost feminine, and he spoke with delicate careful intonation. Then he put the lamp on the counter and surveyed the two of us.

'Is it about a bicycle?' he asked.

'Not that' said the Sergeant. 'This is a private visitor who says he did not arrive in the townland upon a bicycle. He has no personal name at all. His dadda is in far Amurikey.'

'Which of the two Amurikeys?' asked MacCruiskeen.

'The Unified Stations,' said the Sergeant.

'Likely he is rich by now if he is in that quarter,' said MacCruiskeen, 'because there's dollars there, dollars and bucks and nuggets in the ground and any amount of rackets and golf games and musical instruments. It is a free country too by all accounts.'

'Free for all,' said the Sergeant."

Flann O'Brien - Extract from "The Third Policeman"

Thor Heyerdahl

Yesterday evening I had dinner & drinks with some French friends; I was lured into dinner by the proximity of the restaurant, and a promise of beer.

The topics of discussion were varied (Yoga, spirituality, photographic strategies, sensory deprivation, ketamine) but one stuck with me, because it was about a man I respect tremendously but of whom we seldom hear anything today.

I'm talking about Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl was a marine biologist and anthropologist and, was best known for the raft voyages he made between North Africa & Polynesia (Contiki) and North Afrika and South America (Ra). He was attempting to prove that contact between the continents, pre Christopher Columbus was possible.

Of course, today, we know that the Chinese sailed those waters in boats of inimaginable size (for their time) at the same time as Columbus, and what they did before is lost in myth.

I first encountered Heyerdahl with his book about the Ra expeditions and the impact of that book has never left me.

The book is a mixture of scientific credibility, opposition to the mainstream of science, navigation of the politics of bureaucracy and a powerful statement against the politics of the super powers. In this curious cycle the book also explores the dynamics of a team of men stuck on a raft together for long periods, racial tensions within the group at a time when Martin Luther King was having trouble fighting for the freedom of Black America and the materialization of a dream, a faith and a lust for adventure.

Amidst all these currents this is not fiction; it is reality - a reality born of dreams.