Complexity and the book.

Spent most of the evening trying to track down an InstantiationException thrown in some arcane branch of a procedure way too long to handle, let alone understand. Grown software. A large, fragile complexity, step by step built by adding small, simple changes, straightforward and in a disputable understanding of pragmatism. Documentation is tough. Tough when it comes to writing, maybe even thougher to read. That’s the very moment you end up with many thousand lines of code and hundreds and hundres of pages of text and pictures hyperlinked all across your intranet, making even simple problems incredibly difficult – such as where, for gods sake, to even start reading?!

That’s where your reading habits gradually change, time being the limiting factor with a continuous massive influx of input and information on virtually all channels. There’s a growing load of books partially read or unread at all piling up next to my bed. There’s an even larger bunch of books read once or twice, filling shelves just vaguely sorted, anything but a library as one would expect it. And there are megabytes and megabytes of digital books stored on hard drives or removable media. Collecting things, knowing it’s hard to actually do anything with them. You’ll never ever actually read most of these books, but it feels good to know you could, doesn’t it? The digital representations seem to make some things easier. Keeping them around is easier. Finding something in there is easier, if you’re not about just reading books for the sake of it but then and now keep track of quotes, inspiring moments and paragraphs that might prove useful for whatever purpose in whatever short-term future. Not reading them, actually, is easier.

Getting rid of it all is easier … after all you just remove entries from a file system index, in most cases not even caring about purging each and every bit of your digital book. Just forget it’s been there and let it be overgrown and ultimately replaced by new information, the same bits in another order representing something else. You will never have to go through the painful process of discarding actual books, those that still bear your liner notes, those that still have traces and scratches of sand on their covers, memories of earlier holidays sunny beaches. Those that still bear the smoke of your nightly cigarettes, reading through gloomy poetry in early twenties late summer nights. Those that helped you earn a living while guiding you through your first technical projects, all of a sudden figuring out that there’s a mismatch between theory and real-world problems, sending you back to re-learning things you thought you learnt ages ago. But how to attach such memories to digital data? Your bits surely don’t bear any of these, no matter how hard you try…

But reading technical documentation is nowhere near the joy of reading books for the sake of it. Yet, at times and in my world I sort of envy people who are into writing such books. Sit down, follow your flow, work and write and come up with something. Review it. Edit it. Review it again. Edit it again. Shape that stone until you’re happy – and then just publish it and leave it like this. No digging into ten year old story lines to fix logical errors. No need to repeatedly and frequently rewrite parts of the story while making sure the logic and the flow of the rest of the text still works and makes sense. Things are always so much easier to an ignorant outsider.

The source of InstantiationException has been pinned down and hopefully fixed. Minor changes, adding to the overall complexity. Another new path on the way through a vast structure of a system. And yet the usual flow. Edit. Build. Commit. Deploy. See it come up again, see it make through the tests to, at some point, just work. For a certain period of time at least. And I’m about to be a writer now again. Things are so much easier …

awake for days

Night moving on fast again. Still close to 7 Celsius, seemingly leaving behind another winter that wasn’t. Windows opened wide, to not just hear but merely sense the air cooling down, the wind, the city outside. A fair amount of windows opening to the wide backyard, filling the night with noise, light. Even more noise from the streets on the other side of the buildings. Sleep’s still quite a bit away out here. And so night passes, with time being spent on the things to do late at night. Giving in to these things – wine, strong incenses, music, the dark outside. Not in order to ignore a certain massive understanding of “reality” of these days, and the fear, confusion and complexity it brings. But in order to accept it – and yet leave it aside, filter it out just for a while, break it all down to a bunch of concepts and ideas a little less complex…

Pessoa. Jaccottet. Rilke. Hesse. Written poetry on paper. Annotations, thoughts, vague ideas, written, on paper too. A moment to rediscover skills and interests that seemed lost somewhere all along the way. This is the moment to leave marks on the pages of old newspapers, to do scribbles and sketches , the moment to forget about being totally untalented at doing either of these and to still do so for the sake of it, because it seems appropriate, because there’s a desire of doing so, because it just feels so good for a moment?

And maybe at least that very moment will make for a good photo posted to Tumblr later on, a strange approach to preserving things by having them spread far and wide no matter how ridiculous or personal they might seem or be. That’s, then, what will remain once the morning’s closing in again: An bottle of Merlot, half emptied. Sequences of songs to follow through the day not completely unlike echoes fading away. A bunch of unsorted thoughts, more loose ends for an ever-growing pile of unused fragments of random inspiration. And a handful of grainy, desaturated shots on a carefully filtered timeline.
Starting points for thoughts for the next nights to come.

Beyond the noise

“At some point life just got faster. Attention span seems to be constantly quickening. This is not the age of information but it rather seems the age of data overload, the age in which we all subsequently get lost within the megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes of images, textual content, music, video clips flowing by each and every day. At this point we’re just consumers, there’s hardly time for anything else.”

A simple paragraph of text, not much structure nor meaning. His eyes still on the screen, green on black, letters on a squared writing area. Few lines of text, result of an hour-long write-select-delete procedure, of dealing with the own ability to find the right words in the right language, or to accept things to be written as mere snippets of transient thoughts. Snapshots of a mental landscape in green/black symbols. Distraction-free writing, as they call it. Difficult a state of mind to achieve indeed, even here in this place that provides a certain kind of comfort, a hideout from what seems an ever-accelerating world getting more complicated in as many troublesome ways as possible. Distraction-free writing… What does that eventually mean in days in which going _without_ distractions obviously is the last thing anyone wants? What is this likely to mean in days of some sort of superficial high speed culture, in days in which a load of cultural exchange or dealing with content seems to boil down to pushing little blue thumbs on images, a hundreds a minute? What is this likely to mean while looking at the world through a browser window, 1,000 tabs per session and counting, some of them emitting music, some of them eventually likely to emit video if one would just pay attention? So to set the soundtrack for this stage – simple as that: Just fire up three, four, five, ten, twelve different YouTube tabs, randomize whatever you find, press play times X, get your headphones, lay back. Maybe it won’t be pleasant but at least it would be a confusing and, thus, well-suited soundtrack to what seems an awfully awkward journey through an unsorted structure of data in which a load of meaning, not even talking accuracy or truth, has disappeared to a dark and abandoned corner, all along with any ideas about signal/noise ratio.

It’s a cold and rainy evening outside. That’s the reality in things, right now.
The green and black has disappeared as he powered down his terminal. Night moves on fast, seems he’s running low on battery despite the dimmed-down display. Never mind. Possibly that’s not the only way to run low on battery. Looking out of that other window, he can see reflections on wet roads, cars slowly passing by, a city preparing for another late winter night. Power off, for now.
It’s not just the terminal that needs a recharge…