Aristillus

A large crater to dump my thoughts

Archive for September 2012

Neil Armstrong

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For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by astronomy and the stars. When I was young I enjoyed stargazing, decorated my room with posters of photos of heavenly bodies, and tried to read as much as I could about the universe. I loved one of the flags in my granddad’s study that commemorated the first moon landing, which had the signatures and details of the three astronauts on that mission. My book shelf featured several illustrated books about the rockets and space craft that had been used.

At 6 or 7 I wrote my first fiction. The twelve page story told the tale of two hamsters who traveled to the moon and after their return somehow helped establish world peace. The hamsters were named after two of my heroes at the time, both of them pioneers: Christoffel Columbus and Neil Armstrong.

Thanks for being such an inspiration, Neil.

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Written by aristillus

September 15, 2012 at 20:24

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De technologiefetish van de Nederlandse politiek

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Er zijn maar weinig leden van de Tweede Kamer die een fatsoenlijke technische achtergrond hebben, en dat is zo af en toe helaas goed te merken. De gehele politiek lijkt groot voorstander te zijn van elk gebruik van technologie, zonder daarbij ook maar enige kanttekeningen te plaatsen. Het is dus ook geen wonder dat er de afgelopen jaren het nodige gepruts is geweest met technische dossiers.

Zo klonk er bij de verkiezingsuitzending vanavond weer dom geklaag van o.a. Charles Groenhuijsen en Wouke van Scherrenburg – die ik verder overigens hoog heb zitten – dat het zo onnodig was dat we tot laat in de nacht moesten wachten op de uitslag, alleen maar vanwege “een kluppie rare nerds”. Natuurlijk zou het fijner zijn als er geen blik vrijwilligers de hele nacht papieren stemmen hoeft te gaan tellen, en als de politieke junkies onder ons niet de hele avond naar Herman van der Zande hoeven te staren terwijl die de uitslag in elke van de 400 gemeenten oplepelt. Maar is dat ene nachtje extra wachten nou zo’n ontzettend groot probleem? En moeten we daarvoor de betrouwbaarheid en transparantie van de verkiezingen – en dus de democratie – riskeren?

Door alles te centraliseren – één van de consequenties van in ieder geval de vorige generatie stemcomputers – wordt grootschalige fraude vrij gemakkelijk, en het digitaliseren maakt het vrijwel onmogelijk voor waarnemers het proces goed te observeren. Stemmen op de computer is geenzins goedkoper dan op papier. Toch willen verschillende politieke partijen opnieuw investeren in electronisch stemmen – inclusief de partij waar ik zelf lid van ben. In zijn recente column op Webwereld gaat Arjen Kamphuis in op de vraag waarom ook verbeterde stemcomputers een slecht idee zijn. Naast alle technische bezwaren is het natuurlijk de vraag of die tientallen miljoenen niet beter besteed kunnen worden.

Maar het gaat niet alleen mis bij stemcomputers. Het Electronisch Patiënten Dossier (EPD), de OV-Chipkaart en de bewaarplicht zijn andere grote voorstellen die een forse en risicovolle investering in technologie vereis(t)en en waarvan het netto nut op z’n minst onduidelijk is. Technologie is een middel – maar geen wondermiddel – en mag geen doel op zich zijn.

Written by aristillus

September 12, 2012 at 23:31

SSSAAAIIILLLLLL!!!!!!

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Rargh. In the continuing erosion of privacy on the internet, Google now wants me to use my fullname for my Youtube account. This isn’t the first service for which this is an issue. And don’t tell me it’s about preventing abuse; it’s just as much about linking data. There are perfectly good and valid reasons for using pseudonyms.

Fortunately we can – for the moment – still enjoy Youtube somewhat anonymously. My current favourite:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYxX2YKGdvM]

Written by aristillus

September 6, 2012 at 11:53

Reading update

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Down and out in Paris and London by George Orwell

An account of Orwell’s time living in poverty in Paris and London.

Orwell is a great observer and vivid narrator. This is probably one of my all time favorites. I read it in one single sitting; few books can captivate me that way.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Meh. This is a classic, and a source of inspiration for various great books I’ve read. I can understand its historical significance and it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but there is better stuff out there in this style.

Written by aristillus

September 6, 2012 at 10:09

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Reflections on three years of full-time work

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This fall marks my three year anniversary as a (ahem) full-time productive member of society. I’ve worked from home for the last three years, with three different managers. There are some useful life lessons I’ve learned during that time, in general and about myself in particular:

It took the full first year and a major blow to my self-esteem for me to figure this first one out. I fucking hate, hate, hate micromanagement. I’m a pretty independent person, and this kind of submission – for lack of a better word – just isn’t for me. Micromanagement makes me feel pressured, and makes me feel guilty when I am not accountable for what I am doing every single minute of the work day. It depresses and utterly annoys me. It doesn’t work, either. I was the most productive – and my job was most satisfying – when I given a rough idea of our long-term goals, a carte blanche on how to spend my time (with occasional feedback, of course) and a role in the discussion about our agenda. A manager should be there to make sure I can do my job and represent their team to the rest of the company, not expect me to be at their every beck and call.

I do needs me some me time, but I’m not as solitary as I always thought I was. If I continue working remotely, it will either have to be as a nomad or with at least one or two days a week in an office with other human beings, even if that means having to put on a shirt in the morning.

If I don’t enjoy my job, that will kill my motivation and productivity. I have to care about what I’m creating, and understand why it is useful.

When I was unhappy in my first position and struggling to stay motivated, I pretty much accepted that as a given, since I did not know any better. It was a relief to discover that wasn’t necessary. Never again.

I’m easily bored. Really easily. Give me some hard problems, please.

Work isn’t everything. I’m sure I’m hardly the first person to experience this in their first job, but I’m really good at totally immersing myself in something and just forgetting about the rest of the world and its annoying distractions (social life, dating, hobbies). Another teleworker warned me before I started working from home that boundaries are important. It took me almost three years (stubborn? me? what?), but I have found out the hard way that he was right.

I was really pleased when I got the offer for my current job offer three years ago, but in hindsight I was also meek and somewhat naive. There are plenty of interesting job openings out there, and ample opportunity to be hired.

Written by aristillus

September 2, 2012 at 13:27

Reading update

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20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne

I read a simplified version of this book in primary school and absolutely loved it. This time I read the English translation of the full version French edition, and I’m not as enthusiastic. The full book is still an interesting and entertaining read, but it is overloaded with details – long lists of fish and other animals monsieur Arronax observes down in the ocean that go on and on. They are perhaps one of the things that make this book so interesting a hundred and fifty years later, but bored me.

Letters to a young contrarian by Christopher Hitchens

Entertaining read on independent thinking and the necessity of noncomformity. Perhaps a bit short, but witty and well written.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Beautiful book about homosexual love and Catholicism in a time gone by.

A Collection of Essays by George Orwell

A fine collection of essays, including some of my all time favorites –  “Why I Write”, “Politics and the English language” and “Reflections on Gandhi”.  I found myself violently agreeing about Dickens. Some of the essays are hard to relate to – I haven’t read any Kipling yet, seen any postcards by Donald McGill or consumed any Boys’ Weeklies – but Orwell provides a reasonable amount of context, and the essays were still worth reading. “England Your England” is overly patriotic – not surprising considering the circumstances in which it was written – and meek; disappointing.

Written by aristillus

September 1, 2012 at 23:05

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After Democracy

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The VPRO, one of the only quality Dutch broadcasting organizations, has an English-language Youtube channel.

Last year they broadcast a documentary from Chris Kijne about democracy and its shortcomings earlier. It includes an interview with John Keane, whose book on Democracy I’m reading at the moment. The documentary with English subtitles is up on Youtube:

Written by aristillus

September 1, 2012 at 20:48

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