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Late Walks and Real Life

June 22nd, 2011

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors may have had no need for something like music, and when I think about that kind of stuff, our culture seems pretty removed and silly.  But my thinking is starting to change. It’s built into us to connect with the world through our senses, and while there was no music in prehistoric times, there certainly was sound — and sight, taste, touch and smell.  There is nothing inherent in us that needs art, or music or anything like that.  We only need to connect with things bigger than ourselves through our bodies for the purpose of staying psychologically whole.

Music is just one example. I go for a walk with my MP3 player, listening to The Flaming Lips’ “Transmissions from the Satellite Heart,” and the sounds vibrate all these parts of my brain that are normally dormant, because I’ve built a connection to this record. I’ve also built a connection to the nighttime, the quiet city-neighborhood environment, the smell of new rain, the color of streetlights, and the feeling of freedom that forms when you combine a pair of earbuds and a pair of functioning human legs. All of these connections are a result of my life and how I’ve lived it. They are all positive things that contribute to my mental health. They are things that make me happy and do a little bit to keep me going. They are also the result of me psychologically anchoring my solitary experience in the world through indirect, abstract expressions of humanity.

I’ve gotten into the habit of judging an experience like this as not good enough, too detached and generally bad for me. The logical process spins out of that place in my brain that feels a persistent sense of alienation, despite the ways I anchor myself: My life feels lonely and isolated and unhappy, and I connect that with being detached from social life, and then go on to judge anything that is not social as contributing to loneliness, isolation and unhappiness. I’ve felt like I was enabling the loner in me while my people person whithers away.

Long walks at night with headphones can only do so much. It’s easily the kind of thing I cling to over and over again, only to wonder why it no longer carries the same spiritual weight it once did. But now I also know that when my world is crashing down around me, something so simple and solid in me as the pull of a song can keep me feeling like me. It’s important in dark times to pay attention to those things that keep you alive. They got you where you are right now, even though at the same time, they got you where you are right now. That is, no matter how bad things are, there is always something keeping it from getting worse.

I guess the cliché phrase is “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” although that phrase rubs me the wrong way. Being at peace with all the ways that my isolated self comes to seek wholeness will give the atrophied parts of my soul the room and freedom to exercise and grow. There is nothing wrong with being the kind of person who looks inward to find meaning and there’s nothing wrong with the means of seeking introspection and positive inwardness. I’m learning not to judge my experiences or emotions. In each moment there are plenty of signals that point us in the direction we need to go, although it’s easy to get distracted.

My brain has been trying to tell me things for years and years, but I thought I was smarter than it. I’m finally starting to listen, and now we’re getting along pretty well.

Diary Poem 6-15-11

June 15th, 2011
I rode on, my arts majors
stashed it in storage
and fell asleep
lyndale was a really bumpy ride
or a ride but she didn’t
so meaning to bike
I just randomly
listened to Queen and
my room is clean
because into it some other podcast
went to the bowling alley and ran thinking
functioning I went thundering
later so I get a beer

bike to lake work
raining didn’t do much of anything I really need to do
Levi the parking lot
I guess I can start that now
both hanging Morrissey
really loud, out in my dishes
when I got home
I woke up correctly

For more about this poetry format, look here, where it started.

Diary Poem 6-14-11

June 14th, 2011

butter today, watching
staring and the backburner
growing. few days ago.
I’ve the more often now
and I don’t get everything
start library
linux install
watching myself more
work to do
screen but I spent way too much time
grocery summer
installing and reinstalling
getting more sleep and start taking it
into space, etc

notes for the books it never can
I keep telling myself
the weather is nice to spend all
stock up trip
back at no operating system,

back to meanwhile

my room is a mess and everything organized
the library, but it’s on
bring them on
the introductions

been easy
getting more sleep and
I just keep giving
my flowers are
but it never happens
I just keep giving myself
the library, but with no operating system

For more about this poetry format, look here, where it started.

Going Open Source: Switching to Linux

June 10th, 2011

About a month ago, my computer got infected with the insanely messy Windows Vista Recovery virus.  This is partly my fault for being really lazy about virus protection and updates.  I hate anti-virus programs.  They slow the computer down.  Windows alone loads up your computer with all kinds of Microsoft crap and just on startup with a clean install my memory usage is at least 50%.  Anti-virus is also expensive and I don’t trust that they will protect you from everything.  So I just naturally get into the habit of not using them.

Trying to figure out how to clean the virus off of the computer was a lot of running in circles involving downloading various anti-malware apps and trying to edit lines in the registry, running commands and then rebooting, etc.  In the end the only solution seemed to be to buy an external drive, transfer my user folder and restore Vista to the factory install.

This inspired me, as it has every other time I’ve had to reinstall Windows, to set up a clean and usable system: carefully go through the list of installed applications and take out all the proprietary crap that you don’t need, look for fixes online to get rid of redundant icons and customize stuff that Microsoft doesn’t like you to customize, run Google searches like Why is “Encrypt Contents to Secure Data” grayed out?, Hide unused icons in user folder, and Disable Acer Empowering Technology.   I ended up with a cleaner, more usable system when I was done, but something didn’t feel right.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s like I had to stuff this monster into an elegant, clean and friendly mask.  But it’s still a monster, and it doesn’t fit behind the mask anyways, so I’m not really fooling myself by cleaning it up.

My friend advised that I get a Mac.  I thought about it, but said that I wouldn’t.  That doesn’t feel right either, but I didn’t know why.  I guess now I would say that Apple builds a much prettier monster, but in my opinion, it’s still a monster.  I admit that I probably have a somewhat naive perspective when it comes to Macs, and the most honest answer as to why I wouldn’t buy a mac was that I was used to PCs.  Committing to a completely different proprietary OS does not appeal to me.  The other thing I thought was that it seemed ridiculous to have to buy a new computer just to change operating systems.  I’m not actually sure if I could install OSX or something on an Acer laptop, but I assume not.

At some point I realized that I’ve never given Linux a try.  I had gradually over the years been replacing the pirated software I acquired back in my design-school days with open source alternatives, and just recently got rid of the last one: Photoshop.  (I had been using 6.0 since who-knows-when.) I take issue with using proprietary commercial software more than the fact that it’s pirated.  Legitimate or not, Windows was in the same camp as Photoshop.  With so much friendly, open software populating my system, Windows seemed to be the last weak link.  Switching to Linux seemed like a good thing to look into.

Since I finished my Vista reinstall, I’ve been navigating the learning curve for Linux.  The experience has been far from utopic, and at this point, I’m making the move for philosophical reasons.  The easiest thing for me to do would be to set up Vista and just use it, not getting all bent out of shape about Microsoft, etc.  It’s just an OS, right?  But I’ve decided that stepping outside of easy is a good thing to do here.  To configure Linux at all is a little bit of a struggle, but overall I think it’s worth it because Linux is completely configurable.  I experienced the same thing moving from Blogger (proprietary) to Wordpress (open source.)  With Windows, the things they let you configure are easy to configure and everything else is blocked off.  For good.  So screw you if you liked this about the old version and that about the new one, and screw you if you like Vista but you want a Mac-style dock.  With Linux, you can get in there and change whatever you want, provided that you know how to, or that you know how to find out, or that you can find someone who’s already done it and copy them.

It also seems like the world of the open OS is getting closer and closer to Windows/Mac-type instant-gratification usability.  I think that one day you will be able to just download whatever Linux distro looks good to you and throw it on any old laptop without worrying about whether or not your hardware will work with it, and all your software will be easily integrated without having to think about it.  Right now, it would be easy for someone to take a look at this process I’m going through and just say, “Linux is not ready for widespread use.”  To set up anything specific, you need to go into the forums, try out code in the Terminal, you’ll find out that some things are just not supported and you have to learn to live with living without.  For instance, on my computer running Linux, the Wifi light is off when the Wifi in on.  The light is on when Wifi is off.  It’s backwards and that’s just the way it is.  Some day things will be more cohesive.  But not today.

I don’t blame the open source community for this.  I’m not too well-read on it, but generally I think that widespread open-source OS use is being held back by the commercial hardware and software developers.  Put simply, my computer was built with Vista in mind, not Linux.  It should have been built with it’s users in mind.  And there are plenty of Acer Extensa 4620z users, who paid good money for their hardware, who are fighting the manufacturer’s “intended use.” Technology companies are very obviously restricting the use of their products for the purposes of manipulating how they can make a profit off of them.  It seems to me that things that are out there in the open tend to be put together in useful ways by the people who know how to do it.  Nature, for example, didn’t have shareholders.

I’ll focus on Linux itself in my next post, with specific info about the distro and desktop environment I’m using.