Two years ago, after struggling for several years with my health, outsourcing, battling with insane laws, lawyers, and greedy corporations, and coping with the bile accumulated from eight years of hatred for my country's politics (this includes Clinton's last two years), I got fed up.
I finally threw in the towel on my profession, and lost hope for my country.
I found a place to live cheap, and decided to enjoy what time I/we had left with all the gusto I could muster. I was awfully tired and ill. It was a good time to go on strike rest.
I surfed one hell of a lot. Studied Spanish. Traveled. I tried to get married (twice), and ultimately settled on embracing bachelorhood to its fullest. I wrote a lot. I learned a lot of music. I helped create a live music scene that continues to expand... I saw that Ron Paul had correctly foreseen the coming calamity, and followed him for a while...
And I didn't write a single line of code. (well, I did tune a few bits with david rowe)
For a while, all that worked for me. Yet I kept remembering that "despair is a sin", and "for evil to triumph all that is required is for good men to do nothing". I played mind games with myself, rendering the latter comment as "For good to triumph all that is required is that evil men be rendered powerless" - which ties better back into my overall philosophy - but ultimately...
I found myself compelled to create software once again.
Slowly, on my own time, at my own pace, I have been doing work of the quality I desire, at the pace that I need to work at. I'm perhaps 1/20th as productive as I used to be, and half as competent, and probably too perfectionist to be employable at it. Yet - some of the results of my work just made the Linux kernel, and some more will end up in ardour soon, and others stand alone. It has been a worthwhile struggle. I do retain hope that I can find an engineering niche again due to the cost differential between me in California and me here, and a non-native english speaker in China... but I don't really care - it's a rewarding hobby - and I'd rather pursue Quality - as Rob Persig would define it - than profit, any day. I think I can keep the lights on and the bills paid pretty easily now.
Today, Barack Obama is president of the United States.
I am impressed. Obama, by his mere existence, can clear up some of the most terrible cracks in the American conciousness and ideals in a way no one else can.
I pray that he can also reduce the stucked-ness that America has been plagued with for the last decade.
I didn't vote for him, but, weirdly, I can date my returned urge to code back to the day he was elected. I wasn't planning on coding again, I was (still am) working towards making a modest living in another field entirely....
I think it will take a decade or more to reverse the changes the last three decades has wrought. Certainly the next two years are going to be pretty bad. I still feel that it is probable, however, that America's decline is unstoppable - the decline in quality jobs, living standards, ethics, education, and morality, will not halt, but accelerate, and the Far East take the center stage. Maybe they will do a better job with their day in the sun.
I think housing prices will continue to plunge for another year too. (and this is a good thing, housing had become unaffordable for too many, including myself - houses are also too big, according to our current demographics, but that's a tale for yet another unpublished article)
There's no sign that Obama is capable of chopping away the deadwood, or setting fire to it. It does look possible he can plant a new forest or two. Governments can create markets. Look at the market for war-making, for example...
I was reminded of that particular novel a lot in the last few years. I was spending most of my time being tasked with avoiding copyright and patent laws and seemingly spending endless days with lawyers, and not doing what I loved, engineering. More than once, I quit because what I was doing was ethically or legally challenging. In part, I came to Nicaragua because I hoped CAFTA wouldn't pass (it did, but remains mostly unimplemented), so I could be left alone to create once again.
Last year, I struggled with writing a piece about why I was not a libertarian, but believed they pulled in the right direction. Recently I found part of the answer in something Jerry Pournelle wrote:
Atlas Shrugged shows capitalists overwhelmed by government regulators who don't understand how things work and eventually, which trying to assure fair play, make it impossible for the market to work.
Alas, a slave market shows where unregulated capitalism will go if left to itself.
For two thousand years political philosophers have known that good government consists of a mix, and that maximum freedom can only be obtained through mechanisms to assure that freedom. 'That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed'
Apparently no one remembers any of this. Miss Rand didn't; her unregulated capitalists were still decent men and women.
I am glad to have escaped the slave market.
Some things cheer me up, a lot.
Take, for example, the resurgence of Philadelphia sports - the Phillies winning the world series - and the plucky Eagles first, crushing the Cowboys a few weeks back, and then almost making the Superbowl with comeback after comeback in every game since - the last quarter of the last game was seemingly designed to make a Rocky fan weep every two minutes.
Or, SpaceX building the Falcon 9 rocket from scratch before NASA could even demonstrate a prototype of their own - and getting a contract for it. It's on the pad now. I get choked up about how it represents the America I once believed in every time I look at it. And I remember that Elon Musk is actually from South Africa, yet still believes in the American dream.
People working towards being united, rather than divided.
One of the most galling things about the Bush regime was that, after election on the thinnest of margins, he then proceeded to rule as if he had an absolute majority.
I'm comforted by the idea of a new president that reaches for a cigarette, rather than a bible, when he needs contemplation - a president that might reach for technology, rather than weaponry, to achieve his goals. A uniter, rather than a divider, that actually may be one.
It is a nice thing to hope for, and although I can't gush over him like many of my friends, or Andrew Sullivan, or Doc Searls... Barack Obama does give me hope for a better tomorrow - or at least, a slightly less worse one. I'm willing to give him his shot, for now.
I intend to hang up this blog - and the prolefeed - and blogging in general - completely for a few months while I work on some code and some spanish. Maybe when I come back things will truly have changed.
"If nothing else, we are committed to failing in a new way." - Elon Musk
I didn't actually manage to see Obama's inaugural speech, though I read it. It didn't say a whole heck of a lot, really, that hasn't been said before... but it said it well.
However, in seeing pictures of the Mall today, I couldn't help but be reminded of the following:
not this part of the movie, in particular, but the sense of imminent doom, removed by the words, Klaatu Barada Nikto...