Pink Tickets

“To be permitted by your spouse to indulge in such activities that are normally banned in her absence”

Hah-roomphf. And so begins the battle for time and permission by The Spouse to be allowed to do things without him or her. Oh, the games! Listen to enough conversations and you get a glimpse into a lifetime of evolving strategy deployed on both “sides” of the union in order to achieve some kind of guilt-free, permissible indulgence. And that indulgence could be a race, an event, a night out with the girls or boys, a manicure, shopping trip, business adventure, training hour.. whatever. The battle for time away, the fight for that precious me-time just kind of happens and grows- and the memes and fauxy social circles don’t help either because then we end up not thinking that it is just the way it is and should be.

More hah-roomphf. Instead of cunningly working out your me-time, your precious away time, by paying cash or some penance (aka, planting landmines) why not fight for your spouse’s me-time? Yip. Go out of your way to make sure she/he can get to do the things that make him/her happy. Actively fight the schedule of busyness to make sure the person you love gets to be the best person they can be. The end.

Life perspective

The New Religion Called Diet

Tele-evangelism like marketing leads the way with promises of a newfound you. These are backed up by powerful testimonies and anecdotal science (before and after photos). There’s also a strong altar call afterwards (buy these products, be they books or supplements) to all those wishing to change and converts go out into the world heralding enthusiastically the benefits of this new diet. New testimonies are born and shared around the dinner table and litter social media by the growing score of followers (yes, another loaded term). Books are written. Websites are dedicated. Courses are started. Markets boom. Industries grow. Even governments get involved and issue regulations. Naturally, not all of these assemblies are the same and they all use slightly different marketing methods to appeal to their flock, but the underlying hooks are the same. People haven’t changed in years.

How do you know if someone is following a new diet? They tell you. All the time. They will also be able to explain how the diet works and why it works in detail. And often the goal is aesthetics. Some will throw performance-related benefits into the mix but the benefits are still firmly entrenched in aesthetics. And, like all good religions, the core of that belief will get manipulated and ultimately misrepresented into bastard forms (either willfully or out of ignorance) that claim allegiance to the original but in reality have strayed so far down the garden path that anyone with small amount of patience can easily spot the hole. Of course, a lot see what they want to see. None so blind. But with the growing number of apologists (defenders of The Diet) it’s hard to sit outside in the cold wondering if you got it all wrong.

Followers of The Diet, be the goal aesthetic or performance, have one god in common: their own body. The promise of eternal youth, quality of living and longevity is such a strong pull that despite our self-proclaimed noble, scientific, rational or liberal outlooks, we fall for the silly so easily. We serve our body. We worship our body keeping it holy (which literally means set apart, or specially recognized) with an extensive list of thou-shall-not-eats (and or dos). Some more disciplined than others, there are still measures in place for those that slip up. Penance is usually paid by doing some extra “cardio” and followers rally to the help of their backsliding brother or sister with encouraging picture memes on their timeline to remind them of their purpose.

Detractors of The Diet are met with contempt if all attempts at proselytizing have failed. Ostracized or ignored, the scorned heathen will be left to their own nutritional habits. These detractors similarly start to develop a strong annoyance with anything related to The Diet on account of being endlessly battered by bullshit: current blog post as reference. Some detractors with a little more energy will engage in direct warfare thus creating the much needed tension which will help to keep The Diet alive. Because after the initial honeymoon is over, and all the longitudinal studies have been concluded, the lack of common sense will need a distraction.

But, at the end of the day, we all free to follow and serve and believe what we want. Ultimately, death will judge (if you even believe that). There are no medals in this lifetime that serve us in the grave and some will get there sooner than others (regardless of diet, lifestyle or otherwise). And in following, serving and believing, we are all free to enthusiastically share what we have on our hearts with others- it’s part of what makes us beautiful (and annoying). And in that beautiful journey we try cultivate a sophisticated sense of tolerance towards others with a different viewpoint- some more successfully than others. So if following The Diet works for you, that’s great and all, but maybe wearing a specially-recognized hat indicating you want to expound the mysteries of your diet on strangers is a good idea. That way, like the krishnas, Mormons and JWs, we know when we need to avoid eye contact and save everyone a world of awkwardness thus carefully preserving that politely veiled sense of tolerance we call world peace.


Do Patriots Love Their Country?

Patriot, a noun. A cursory look through some formal definitions reveals:

* A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.

* one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.

And the rest are similar. Essentially, there are 3 parts in that which are interesting:

country, defend against enemies and support of authority.

Of that, the most interesting is country. Do real patriots really love their country? Well, what is a country?

Again, search to the rescue and we get something long the lines of:

A nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory. And others referring to a piece of land. There are other definitions of the word country, the most interesting in this context being

The people of a nation

The people of a nation. Now if we look at the origin of the patriot:

1590s, “compatriot,” from Middle French patriote (15c.) and directly from Late Latin patriota “fellow-countryman” [link]

Essentially, a patriot is a person who loves their fellow countrymen. Not the piece of land. The people.

It’s easy to be all patriotic about your country but then easily hate, dislike, despise, think-lowly-of, your fellow countrymen. That doesn’t make you a patriot. That makes you confused and irrational. You’re a patriot only once you start loving your fellow countrymen, regardless of their opinions.

And locally, we have many “Proudly South African” enterprises, groups and individuals. But how many only love the piece of land and find it too easy, even habitual, to denigrate their own countrymen?

Patriotism is a powerfully romantic ideal, but is there enough evidence to substantiate it’s reality?

perspective programming

Getting In The Way

2013 and almost a decade has passed since I embraced agile development practices. Along the way, some of the fluff got dropped, some of it became lifestyle, some of it evolved into something better. “We” went through a lot. And those that made the decision back then to abandon established practices and try something new did it because “there had to be a better way” to releasing software. That was 10 years ago. Software release was messy. Bugs were expensive. Fast forward to today and production bugs are still expensive; if not more so.

What surprises most though is that after all this time, there still remain a number of projects (a collective term which includes startups, corporate teams, freelancers) where the methodology and practices are *still* 1990. If anything, members on some of those teams are even more resistant to change. And disturbingly, not all of them have even been coding for that long either. Oh, and the positions on the debates haven’t changed argument in 10 years. Time to move on…

I guess what has happened is that the experienced members of the team tried to adopt agile in some form or another at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong stakeholders. They got burnt. Juniors joined the team, maybe some of them eager to apply some agile practice, but the prevailing ethos was not going to let that evolve. If anything, the sentiment against any kind of agile practice was antagonistic (yes, not all decisions made by engineers are rational).

The nett effect; incumbent teams with a deep mistrust of change, still struggling to release software like it was 1999. Beyond that, unhappy programmers who complain about how dull software development is. And worse, a generation of developers unwilling to take ownership. Attitudes get in the way of releasing beautiful software.

Thankfully though, on the flip side of that are a bunch of shiny, happy people. They don’t need to be agile or follow an agile methodology to be great- they just are. They get on with the job and release beautiful software. Projects (which is to say, teams of developers from 1-n) need, more than ever these days, devs happy to embrace change and own the tech domain. Introducing agile (wether actually adopted or not) is just one way of gauging how resistant your team’s mindset is.

If you’re struggling with a team, or part of a team that’s struggling, the best thing you can do is make an effort to make it better- and the thing you’re looking for is not a messiah, a methodology, a bullet or a graile: it’s a thing which starts with a change inside you.


Be Less Do More

In general, we have a obsession with the idea of “being something”. We start off young, being asked as kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That same question is ingrained throughout our growing years, and becomes super important during high school. We make life choices based on what we want to be. And stop doing the things we love because that interferes with the busyness of being.

Once you’re in the working world, recruiters will quizz you, managers will subpoena you, peers will interrogate you: “what do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now?” Enough of the BE. It’s a lazy short-circuit attempt at trying to pigeon-hole your capacity.

When you stop asking that question and start asking: “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” you get a subtly different perspective with a radical shift in thinking; and hence, outcome.

There’s a big difference between being something and doing *stuff that represents what that being is supposed to entail.

Before there were plumbers, there were people who just did stuff, like fixed drains. Before there were doctors, there were people who just healed others. Before there were programmers, there were people who solved problems using software. Basically, before the BE came into existence, people got on with the job of DO.

Once the DO becomes established, others who do the same, team up and then what they do collectively becomes known as a BE of sorts. Everyone else then stops thinking about what to DO and focuses on what they can BE. That is, they just follow. We will not carve the future we need by looking at (following) what we can BE.

When you stop putting constraints on what you want to BE in life, you can start focusing on what you want to DO with your life. And that’s either a good thing, a bad thing or a scary thing.

Try it for yourself. Ask yourself those two different questions.

What do you want to be in life?

What do you want to do with your life?

There’s usually two different answers. The one is typically a label (because it’s asking for a noun) and the other is a typically an action (well, it is a verb, right?). But they should amount to the same thing? If not, what are you doing?

Start with what you want to DO with, and in, your life. Once you got that priority sorted out, you can then get on with creating the next BE, without worrying about what it will be called. And if you got kids, remember, we are are preparing them for a future we have no idea of. Almost all the “jobs” that will be available by the time they’re ready to enter the “workforce” do not exist today.

Encourage them (and yourself) to do the things they (and you) love- and do them well. Our world and our lives are richer because of people who dared to do the things they love before what they did became known as something professional that you could be, and make a living from.


Violent Young Men

For some time, I’ve been meditating on the source of authority. From organic social groups to governments, what mechanism propels an authority into being respected? And even more abundantly, how do “gurus” achieve their status despite having any official certificate? And for those who do have something “official” (read bureaucratic) what mechanism gives the institution offering the certificate, authority to do so? In the end, I came to the conclusion that violence is the source of all authority.

It’s easy to understand if we look to history. Kingdoms and rulers were established by force. On a smaller scale, leaders or regions and towns were established the same way. Gangs rule an area by force. Even the church (and other religious prescriptions) were all established under the sword– or, at the least, the threat of the sword. Once the general population subjugated, it just becomes “the way things are” and we continue until another force rises up to disrupt the incumbent authority. It’s primitive.

Naively, we might like to think that authority is established by voting and more sophisticated, even pleasant methods like logic, intelligence and service. Logic, intelligence and service help to maintain an authority in power since it liquidates the need for an opposition uprising, but it rarely establishes an authority. Not even in a “democratic” country. Of course, when we look to current establishments to argue that democracy does indeed establish authority, we forget that we are only looking at our generational window of a much older system at play.

So violence, or the threat of violence is enough to establish authority. You don’t need to look very far to see this playing out every day in a hundred different ways. Who holds the authority on the roads? Cops or blatant transgressors who get away with (quite literally) murder? Think of any confrontational issue, be it at work or in a social setting. Who establishes authority in the moment- and thereby sets the tone? The one prepared to fight or the one backing down?

If you look at more physical, criminal encounters, it’s the criminal who intimidates the victim and holds authority in the situation. This is achieved through force, or the threat of force. And inside that situation, the only authority over the criminal is the justice system “in action”. When that system fails to counter with a reasonable and equal counter force, or threat of force, there is no real authority that compels the criminals to reconsider their behaviour.

Take the death penalty, for example. In the days of olde, the hangman’s noose was prescribed for horse theft not so that the justice system could kill thieves, but so that they could stop thieves from stealing horses. Because, in the beginning, man was violent, always will be violent and no matter how much metro-political-correctness you try instil in a generation of young men, there will always exist a band of violent young men outside that fluffy conditioning, who will only know violence as the way.

To counter this forever-present force of evil in the world (for lack of a better description, for it is evil) you need brave warriors. Not cold-blooded warriors. You need warm-hearted, sacrificing and bold warriors who can stir hearts and lead in the face of adversary. You need young men and women who don’t back down when someone barks at them. You need young warriors who are not afraid to knuckle down, and if necessary, throw down to suppress the forces which threaten our hard-fought liberties. Yes, the liberties we enjoy today were won by the sword, lest we forget.

To that end, sport plays a critical role in the development of the young warrior. After all, sport is just a reflection of and preparation for greater things in life. Sport as the end in and of itself is indulgent and selfish. Sport is so much more; a master which trains us to lead and serve. And, less deeply, a great physical release, enjoyment and celebration of the human ability. But on the deeper level, sport offers us an opportunity to confront the seemingly impossible, overcome fear, achieve dreams and help us believe. We know this everytime we see it, and everytime we experience it for ourselves on the finish line. If only we care to reflect.

It’s no coincidence then that the great leaders of our past were fanatical pugilists. Today, we look at the sport of boxing with disdain and label it “barbaric”. We consider sports like rugby, NFL football or Aussie rules as violent. We steer our kids away from situations where (healthy) violence is prolific in the hope of protecting them from injury, while ironically allowing them to soak up ridiculously (cold-blooded) violent cartoons and movies. This in itself raises so many questions: how do kids learn to differentiate between the two? how do kids learn to respond, practically, to physically rough situations? how do young men, in particular, develop a healthy sense and responsibility for their own inherent violent nature?

Truth be told, violent but healthy sports offer our kids an education that can’t be transmitted academically. Dealing with violence is a skill, not a written test. Both when on the offensive and in the defensive, knowing your own physical limitations, strengths and weaknesses, as well as that of your opponents’ makes you a formidable warrior.

One only has to read through a brief history of Mahatma Gandhi’s life (arguably the world’s greatest pacifist) to understand the role and influence violence has over countries and communities. Not being afraid of violence, because there is a deep understanding of it through experience, is the first step to overcoming it, even non-violently. But being prepared to fight is what is important particularly if your opponent is dogmatic, stubborn and only knows one way. More than being able to fight, is being able to fight well. Of course, you can also (willingly) submit to the butcher’s knife as Gandhi put it, but that’s a matter of perspective I guess, one I would probably disagree on.

So while the world grows violent young men in abundance through an aggressive model of corruption, dishonesty and selfishness, fuelled by modern advertising (and by advertising, I am speaking very broadly and not pointing at media agencies at all), we should be cultivating a generation of young warriors prepared to inspire and work towards protecting and serving the values and ideals we hold fast. How?

Practically, with sports like boxing or rugby. Not with the sole purpose of “winning at all costs”. I believe those intentions are an invention engineered by the same cold-blooded violent mentality we oppose. Incidentally, we recognise that dark force within a game itself. It’s the cheap-shot player as an example. And in those moments, we see real heroes emerge and learn how to deal with villains. Heroes are not the ones responding with tit-for-tat violence. Nay, they are the ones responding with class, rising above and triumphing with a display of ability, strength and spirit. And it is in that demonstration which intimidates the opposition and establishes real authority; where we learn how to wield authority and circumvent aggression with non-violence in a violent world.

Life perspective

Getting out of bed

On my way to go paddle this morning, I stopped at a red traffic light. It was still dark out, a shade after 5:30AM and only the intermittent cars and buildings were glowing. In the shadows of the black, was a lone man; a vagrant. Blind. He was sitting softly at the light, clutching his make-shift guide stick; his face buried into his free hand.

He was sobbing.

I stopped and listened carefully. In between the sobs, he was singing a really sad song. In a foreign tongue but with the sweetest tones.

Miles from home, in a foreign country all alone, blind and wandering the streets of Cape Town sits a grown man crying.

And I’m off to go paddle in the pursuit of health, happiness and adventure. I’ll go back home after my hard paddle and choose between a breakfast of oats or Pronutro and huddle around the breakfast table with my clan drinking hot tea.

Never complain about getting out of bed. Ever.

Life perspective

Nothing Wrong With The Government

In every age and civilisation, when men didn’t agree with the status quo, they teamed up. They plotted and planned (illegally if they had to) and put into action, a labour of passion that would change the way things are. Sometimes, they would rewrite history. They were men of conviction and action. So, yes, it’s not the government at fault for *whatever*- it’s the men that fail to do nothing about it that’s really at fault.

I’ve written about tweeting our demise; watching the world burn while we compete for first in breaking the news on twitter, or getting an instagram or video up on youtube before anyone else…

And today, the notion was re-inforced listening to “grown” men fawn over each other about how ripped their abs were- and then compare notes on training supplements. Because these things are *really* important. The “bluddy government” is not a real problem- just another conversation topic.

Oh, and it hailed pretty badly up north, apparently. Check it out. This video is insane!

Life perspective

Betrayed in Prayer

Our prayers can betray us through the language we often use, or perhaps, default on. Sometimes it might just be a habit we’ve adopted without thinking about- and with all sincerity, we think it’s ok. But let’s unpack an interaction between two close friends, Ben and John. Ben finds himself in the awkward position of having to tell John that he has just crashed John’s car…

Ben: “Hey, John. Here I am. I stand before you to tell you something.”

Wait, stop.

Who is Ben really talking to… or more importantly, who is Ben talking for? That’s not really how friends talk to each other. They are both present in the conversation so Ben doesn’t really need to describe what he’s doing. Unless of course, John is blind and needs some context. Which in itself is equally interesting…

So when we pray, why do so many of us describe where we are and what we are doing to an omniscient God?

Us: “Lord, Here I stand before Your throne to ask for Your forgiveness…”

Do we think that He is blind to where we are and what we are doing? What are we trying to say and for whose benefit? It seems a little bit wishy-washy but maybe you think it’s respectful, polite or politically correct? It doesn’t really matter. Simply put, we don’t really talk that way. It’s just a little weird.

I feel we take our cue though from popular songs and, or from attending to and listening to too many prayers- not actually saying as many for ourselves. For example, when a leader prays, he prays for those gathered and almost tells a story and describes a lot of context. That is always for the benefit of those there that are, in context, slightly anonymous. In the same way you might over-elaborate a dinner at story time for the benefit of an invited guest who isn’t intimate with the details of the conversations.

A real conversation has a far more natural flow. And that’s where we betray ourselves; in the reality of the conversation we’re having.

Ben: “Hey, John. I’m sorry, I crashed your car.”

Us: “Lord, forgive me”

Simpler. And there’s a lot more we try and describe, add flowery images to and wax eloquently with prepared phrases and time-honoured sentences we’ve heard probably far too often. We can probably do a little better than that. Step into a real conversation with a real person.

Other phrases like: “… I kneel before you …” when we’re actually just sitting or standing. Which, we are quick to point out in a defence is a condition of the heart, and that we’re actually metaphorically kneeling when we say that. Well, sure but however you feel about that, why do we even feel the need to say that? Does it make us sound more pious and holy? Do we feel the need to impress whomever is hearing (besides God)?

There’s a couple more, but it’s not about picking on any of them really. It’s more about encouragement and pushing into having more meaningful and deeper conversations in prayer; without the burden of trying too hard and being overly PC. Just talk.

Life perspective Technology

Twitter Money

Stumbled upon a funny chirp the other day; equating twitter fame with monopoly money. Chuckle. It’s true. Obviously, some would disagree quite strongly with that sentiment- probably the same ones with a lot of hotels on Eloff Street?

Anyhow, shortly after that, Pussy Riot made headlines. Erm, ok. I ignored that (who on earth are Pussy Riot anyway?) till I read about the Kremlin’s interpretation of “free-speech” and their utter disregard for the entire Twitter-protest. I mean, even celebrities were tweeting! Shucks. Pussy Riot was trending.. somewhere. People were getting upset. And tweeting! Surely that would have made Putin think twice?

Apparently not.

Then I came to a frightening conclusion after a little extrapolation of online cultural behaviour: we’re going to tweet our demise and be left with a world burning behind us while we wonder #wtf?

Egypt worked because people actually *did* something and used a medium to communicate and co-ordinate their actions. It doesn’t mean Facebook and Twitter became all powerful and capable of toppling governments. If you believe that, you’re probably sitting on a stack of Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cards and smuggly smiling to yourself.

No, Twitter is not powerful. Nor is Facebook or any other social medium. Fact is, you can organise a coup d’etat without any online social platform. Shock. Even more startling: you actually have to get off the network for a bit and *do* something in the real world to affect real change.

It’s much the same as a $1 re-tweet to help save children dying of hunger in Eritrea. How do you even know that’s *really* working? Or are you happy to just RT and put your conscience to sleep? What about closer to home: the homeless freezing their tails off but at least you look good by sparing them a thought online. As someone in my TL suggested: spare a blanket, not a thought! That would mean actually getting outside and doing something about it though…

Ok, enough of the holier-than-thouness. We’re all guilty of sitting cosy and looking good- trying to capitalize on events and circumstances and adding our thoughts. We’re good at being human. And as you will notice, most of the thoughts outlined here have purposely been chosen from those very same platforms- to illustrate a point. Conversations are great, but without action…

So going back to our little demise… Edmund Burke is quoted as saying: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. I say: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to keep busy tweeting about it”. Oh, and I would include women there as well as men.

Less virtual. More real.